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"If the other players can do it, so can you, George. You're no different from the rest."
Chinaglia whirled, blasted a ball aimlessly into the air and stormed back to the hotel. Any other player would have been at least fined and possibly suspended. But not Chinaglia. Unfined, unsuspended, indeed, unrebuked, he grew darker, more sullen as game time approached on Tuesday.
His mood was mirrored at the box office: ticket sales had leveled at a dismal 9,000 on Sunday. On Monday morning came the surprise announcement: Johan Cruyff, the legendary Dutch star who had retired in May, would play for the Cosmos. The English papers stated he was doing it out of the goodness of his heart to rescue the sagging Chelsea gate. The more cynical said the Cosmos were ready to help Cruyff with the large financial problems he had incurred while playing in Spain, a gesture they hoped would persuade him to come out of retirement and join them next season.
But first the Cosmos had to deal with Chelsea and all it represented. "The pride of English football is at stake," said Coach Ken Shellito, "because we taught Americans the game."
And, of course, the Cosmos boasted such famous English-trained Americans as Beckenbauer, Chinaglia and Vladislav Bogicevic. That Firmani went with this array of international financiers instead of young Americans like Ricky Davis and Gary Etherington only underscored the pressure he was under to avert another catastrophe.
Even more telling was the phone call he made on Monday to Coventry City Coach Gordon Milne saying that the Cosmos were in need of a loan. Firmani was after Steve Hunt, the 22-year-old left winger who played a major role in the Cosmos' two championships and who at his own request had been transferred to first-division Coventry after the U.S. season for a nominal $80,000 because he wanted to return to English soccer. On Tuesday night Milne agreed. Of course, the game against Chelsea, mired at the bottom of the first division, could not exactly be billed as a titanic struggle.
All the more surprising, then, when the largest home crowd in more than a year—some 40,000—turned out to inspect this latest curiosity from the colonies and marvel at the skills of The Great Man, as one British journalist kept calling Cruyff. Beautifully balanced and marvelously adroit, Cruyff strolled through the Chelsea defense with impudent ease. His presence on the field seemed to rouse the Cosmos as well. For once they did not yawn and roll over. Beckenbauer, in particular, looked like a man transformed, striding boldly into attack, working delicate combinations with Cruyff and generally gliding over the field as if on ice skates.
Out on the flanks Dennis Tueart and Hunt were in full cry, their sudden, surging dribbles creating constant confusion in the Chelsea defense. Only some acrobatic goalkeeping kept the Cosmos from scoring three times in the opening minutes. When the goal did come, it was, ironically, the work of two Englishmen. A burst down the left wing by Hunt, a superbly accurate cross to the far post and there was Tueart leaping to drive a volley into the net. A rout seemed likely.
But though the Cosmos swarmed around the Chelsea goal, firing a barrage of shots, they were agonizingly just off target, and Chelsea, in one of its rare sorties to the other end of the field, equalized with two minutes left. The game ended in a 1-1 draw.
"They were a lot better than we thought," admitted Chelsea's Shellito.