As they had in the second game against Tulsa, the Cosmos came on Saturday at a storming pace, with Chinaglia and Seninho spearheading and Dennis Tueart attacking from the midfield. Certainly there was depth enough in the Cosmos' defense not to be totally crippled by the loss of Alberto and Eskandarian. But for the first 10 minutes their defense was hardly tested, except when Whymark, breaking away, headed in with Birkenmeier beaten, only to see his shot cleared magnificently off the line by Ricky Davis, the most promising young American player in the NASL. Otherwise, it was all Cosmos.
This was the kind of pressure that had made Tulsa yield an early goal and then virtually concede the game. There the parallel ended, though. The Cosmos got their goal all right, a beauty, after 10 minutes, constructed by Vladislav Bogicevic and finished by Chinaglia, but the Caps didn't lie down and die, although they still seemed nervous. Their passing kept going astray, particularly in the midfield, which they would have to eventually dominate to win.
There were rough moments also, flurries of fouling, the kind you expect in a playoff game, but nothing serious. On the contrary. For instance, when Kevin Hector, the Caps' central striker, went down heavily with Beckenbauer, the two exchanged courtesies like the generals of opposing 18th-century armies.
At this stage, what seemed missing from the Caps' play was invention and progress on the wings. They had Johnston, a superb player when he puts his mind to it, and Valentine, a gifted 21-year-old, but there was little seen of them. Whymark came close once again: he hit the bar and saw the ball come down on the line. But most of the narrow escapes were at the Vancouver end, Seninho's fast runs being particularly troublesome.
The run of the play was all with the Cosmos until their Dutch defender, Wim Rijsbergen, fouled Ball somewhat ostentatiously and then made the mistake of arguing with the referee. Ball hit the free kick sweetly into the penalty area for John Craven, who had come up from the Caps' defense. Craven beat the hapless Rijsbergen to the ball and scored to tie the score, 1-1.
Now the Cosmos looked more vulnerable, especially when Tueart had to leave with a pulled hamstring, but seven minutes before the half, they went ahead again, a classic Seninho run finished off by Chinaglia, 2-1.
And 2-1 it stayed almost throughout the second half. Now the Caps were gaining confidence, creating more chances, and when Neeskens, chasing Goalie Parkes for a loose ball, collided with him, went down in agony and shortly afterward left the field, there was a gap in the middle that his absence and Tueart's left open to exploitation. And Vancouver did the necessary exploiting. Six minutes before the end, Bob Lenarduzzi broke out of defense and crossed, and there was wee Willie Johnston to soar up, flick the ball with his head and tie the score.
It remained that way until the end of regulation time. Anywhere else in the world the Whitecaps would have now won the series 4-2 on aggregate goals. But because this was the NASL, there was a long way to go yet.
First came the fruitless overtime, then the shoot-out that equalized the series for the Cosmos. Then a mini-game and that extraordinary disallowed goal.
And so now it was all down to a final shoot-out. The Caps had lost the first one easily. Their shoot-out record, extraordinarily bad in the light of Parkes' skill in normal play, was now 1-5 for the season, while that of the Cosmos was 5-1.