To imagine any team other than the Cosmos emerging from Giants Stadium in New Jersey's Meadowlands next Sept. 8 as the winner of Soccer Bowl-79 requires a feat of prodigious fancy. They won the last two NASL championships and take the field for the '79 season stronger than ever. Newcomer Defensive Back Marinho, whom the Cosmos need the way the Yankees needed Rod Carew, may be the icing on the cake. And if Steve Hunt, the perennially homesick English winger, can be persuaded to return to play alongside Dennis Tueart and the hot-shooting Giorgio Chinaglia, the Cosmos may be invincible.
But if they are stronger, they are not necessarily happier. Franz Beckenbauer is gloomy about having to play midfield again. Chinaglia, last season's record-setting scoring leader (34 goals), is reportedly unhappy with Eddie Firmani, the coach he was instrumental in bringing to the team (these are the Cosmos, remember). And it must be recalled that other teams that have amassed high-priced talent have managed not to make it all the way—e.g., the Philadelphia 76ers—and if any one of a number of clubs can mount a sustained challenge against the most expensive roster in world soccer, it could happen here.
is a puzzlement. The Whitecaps are the antithesis of the Cosmos. They are almost entirely English and Canadian, and not a big name among them. Yet, under Player-Coach Tony Waiters, they finished last season with a record identical to that of the Cosmos, 24-6. Having the Whitecaps go all the way would be like a British trade union taking over Buckingham Palace. They play a traditional English, leather-lunged game—counter to the trend in the NASL—but they play it very well indeed. With only four new players—all of them English—the Whitecaps also defy the trend by standing on a pat hand.
, because it didn't win that way, will no longer have its appealingly American look. Among those uprooted by the international influx is Kyle Rote Jr., a longtime media darling and a genuinely able performer, who has been dealt off to Houston. Other young American players coming into the league have more talent than he. Gerd Trinklein, an experienced sweeper from Germany, is the best of the Tornado acquisitions. He will take over that position—from the only American ever to play it regularly in the NASL, Glenn Myernick.
Kicks have always done well at the gate, but to reward their fans with a Soccer Bowl appearance they need a top striker. Longtime Coach Freddie Goodwin has ascended to the presidency of the club, handpicking Roy McCrohan as his successor and bringing to Swedish-oriented Minnesota Bjorn Nordqvist, the so-called "Beckenbauer of Sweden." Nordqvist is a defender who has more "caps"—games for his national team (115)—than anyone. If McCrohan can work some coaching magic with the offense, Nordqvist could give the three-time divisional winners the edge again with an otherwise English-American roster.
The Diplomats' new chief executive. Sonny Werblin, commutes to
from New York's Madison Square Garden Corporation—Knicks, Rangers and now Diplomats—but he seems to have forgotten to take his checkbook with him. With no super-signings, and a team roster as shallow as the Washington Monument reflecting pool, the Dips will not do well despite the presence of feisty scoring artist Paul Cannell. Unless, of course, Werblin changes his mind about that checkbook, which isn't an uncommon way to resolve such difficulties in the NASL.
engineered one of the off-season's most interesting and innovative importations by bringing in not a player but a first-rate international coach. Rinus Michels guided Holland's 1974 World Cup side and has been the gray eminence behind the fabled Johan Cruyff. He also developed the "Whirl," the system of play that won the orange-shirted Dutch National Team the nickname " Clockwork Orange." Michels says, "Most soccer stars are not worth their salaries." But then, the Dutchman hasn't been in this country all that long. He has signed only two of his countrymen, plus a host of English and American hopefuls. The Aztecs just may be able to win their division battle.
Given the evidence that to win in the NASL you must spend money, a number of teams are bucking the odds.
paid a modest $100,000 to purchase English Defender Graham Day, who has played for them as a loaner the past three years. That is as high as the Timbers have ever gone. With 15 British and American players returning, they likely will find themselves out of the playoffs. NASL teams that don't make moves usually are felled.
Up the coast in
, the Sounders have purchased the moody but brilliant English midfielder, Alan Hudson, in their first year of big spending. Hudson, who comes from First Division Arsenal Football Club, cost a reported $200,000. The Sounders also added Derek Smethurst, perennially among the league's top scorers, from Tampa Bay. But their goaltending is questionable in a league committed to attacking soccer, and they may do worse than last season's 15-15 mark.