But a call to the league office indicated that the newspaper report had been premature. At 5 p.m. on Friday, Woosnam, apparently acting alone, was still "considering" the referee's report. The word was that three of the Cosmos' brass, Steve Ross, chairman of the board of Warner Communications, Inc., the Cosmos' parent company; Rafael de la Sierra, a Warner vice-president; and Krikor Yepremiam, general manager of the club, had, at halftime of the Wednesday game, converged on Woosnam, who was in Vancouver as an observer, to protest the officiating. Certainly, the commissioner was under heavy pressure from the Cosmos.
The early hours of Friday evening went by and there was still no news. Was it possible, after all, that the cynics were right? That the big, rich Cosmos were more important than the league?
Then, at 7:50 p.m., the decision was announced. Alberto was out. An undisclosed fine was levied, too, but in the terms of international soccer, it was the lightest of sentences. Nevertheless, this was as much, if not a touch more, than the cynics had expected.
This was especially so because the Alberto penalty followed closely another Cosmos suspension. With only eight seconds left in the Wednesday match, and with the game beyond reach, the Cosmos' fullback, Andranik Eskandarian, had kicked Cap Striker Kevin Hector. For that he justifiably received a red card—meaning expulsion from the game and automatic suspension from the next. Suddenly, through self-inflicted wounds, the Cosmos were without two of their starting defenders for Saturday's game.
The actions of both players had been stupid and needless. They might have stemmed from a frame of mind that Cap Coach Tony Waiters had described after the Wednesday game. "They don't think it is possible for them to lose," he said. "They think they have a kind of divine right to win. They have a sort of arrogance which is almost naive."
That arrogance had first become manifest in the Vancouver game after Trevor Whymark had scored the Caps' second goal 5:44 minutes before the end of the game. At this point, the Cosmos' technical director, Julio (the Professor) Mazzei, in blatant disregard of the rules, had run out onto the field of play, screaming and gesticulating hysterically. It seemed to be his opinion that the goal should have been ruled offside.
True, it had been a hairline decision. It was also true that, stationed as he was on the halfway line, Mazzei was in no position to judge. More significantly, however, nobody saw fit to have him removed from the field immediately. It is entirely possible that, without this foolish example to encourage them, neither Eskandarian nor Alberto would have committed his own piece of foolishness.
The Cosmos had been well beaten before these incidents took place. Caps Goalie Phil Parkes needed to make only two saves, because Vancouver slowly but ever so effectively took control of midfield. Once that was done, a goal was inevitable. Willie Johnston eventually scored it, heading in from a cross by Alan Ball. Johnston, it might be recalled, gained some notoriety after being sent home in disgrace from the Scottish side at last year's World Cup in Buenos Aires; a random drug test showed he had taken a form of amphetamine. Johnston was just dead unlucky: on such grounds, 75% of World Cup players would have caught an early plane.
Now Johnston is well settled with the Caps, whose tightly knit team is in sharp contrast to the Cosmos. That team unity might partially explain why, up until Saturday's game, the Caps had a 6-1 record—3-0 this season—in encounters with the Cosmos.
But considering the difference in resources between them, that record was still largely a mystery. In the context of the NASL the Cosmos are a colossus. No other team can match them in quality of players, in money, staff or facilities. A couple of months ago, when they faltered, the Warner Communications instant remedy was applied: Johan Neeskens of Holland, still one of the world's best midfielders, was signed to a five-year contract worth $750,000. So was the fine German goalie, Birkenmeier. The treatment seemed to work. Ten straight victories followed.