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The 59-year-old ex-soccer star is featured in the documentary Once in a Lifetime: The Extraordinary Story of the New York Cosmos, which opens on July 14
SI: You scored 193 goals in the NASL, the most in the league.
Chinaglia: And 50 goals in the playoffs.
SI: Indeed. Are you the best player ever to play in America?
Chinaglia: Yes. I won more NASL championships than anybody. I was the top goal scorer. What else do you want to know? Let's be realistic. Numbers don't lie.
SI: You are portrayed in the film as a great scorer--and, in your role as the Cosmos' de facto G.M., as a manipulative and Machiavellian guy. Fair or unfair?
Chinaglia: It's not that it's unfair, but the reality is this: I had a mission to do. [Cosmos owner and former Time-Warner CEO] Steve Ross wanted the best franchise in the world. So I tried to get the best 15 or 16 players from around the world every year to make sure people came to the stadium. And they did.
SI: Were you jealous of Pel� when you played together?
Chinaglia: Absolutely not. But I used to get angry at him for a couple of reasons. Number 1, he used to come next to me, and one guy would mark the two of us. I'd say, "Stay wide. You can do better things than anybody there." He didn't like it, but in the end we won the championships. Then he liked it.
SI: How far away is the U.S. from being a perennial World Cup contender?