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On the field in Tulsa, where the temperature soared to more than 120� last Wednesday night, there was Seattle Goalkeeper Jack Brand, his big fist poised to split the lip of Tulsa General Manager Noel Lemon. At the same time, Sounder Coach Alan Hinton was stalking off, refusing to shake hands with anybody. And Referee Gordon Arrow-smith—a Toronto policeman—was getting writer's cramp recording 70 fouls, two ejections and five yellow cards in his game report.
The Sounders, the winningest team in the league, with an 18-2 record attributable to Brand's superb goalkeeping and a finely tuned English-style offense, had just beaten the Roughnecks, who lead their division at 10-7 and are the NASL's most feared team when playing at home, in one of the season's bitterest games.
The Roughnecks have committed more fouls than any club in the league—411 of them after Wednesday's clash—an average of 21.6 per game. When the Cosmos are scheduled to play in Tulsa, Giorgio Chinaglia feels a case of the flu coming on and pronounces himself a doubtful starter. Other strikers suddenly discover that they have aggravated old injuries. Defenders tell the trainer to pack extra Absorbine Jr. "We're tough, but with all our fouls we don't break legs or put guys out of action," claims Roughneck Goalkeeper Gene DuChateau. "We're just aggressive."
Adding to the visitor's problem is the field at Skelly Stadium, at 60 yards wide one of the two narrowest in the league—75 yards is barely adequate. Trying to play the game as it should be played on such a layout is like trying to stage The Nutcracker in a phone booth. Then there's the Tulsa crowd, a howling, rebel-yelling hard-hat contingent that, on the average, numbers 21,000 fans. And the heat.
Lemon, a former used-car salesman who resembles a beefy leprechaun, has carefully cultivated Tulsa's unsavory image. "We've only been in the league 2� years and already half the teams hate us," he says. "Give me another two years and we'll have them all."
The antipathy is especially strong between the Sounders and the Roughnecks. Hinton was fired by Tulsa at the end of last season after leading the Roughnecks to a 14-16 record and a second-round playoff berth. Matters started to come to a head midway through the 1979 season, when Lemon traded Goalie Colin Boulton to Los Angeles over Hinton's strong objections. Hinton let it be known that he felt his contract, which supposedly gave him approval over player transactions, had been violated.
Hinton made things worse by going to bat for a number of players who hadn't received promised signing fees and other bonuses.
Finally, Hinton carried his protests over the heads of Lemon and General Managing Partner Tom Keeter to Ward Lay, the Texas potato-chip king and the Roughnecks' founder. When the season was over, Hinton was dismissed for insubordination. It wasn't a very popular move in Tulsa.
Even less popular was Lemon's decision over the winter to trade Brand and English Forward Roger Davies to Seattle, which in the meantime had hired Hinton as its coach. Brand has become the NASL's leading keeper with a 0.68 goals-against average and Davies the top goal-scorer, with 20 so far this year.
Before last week's game, the local press happily helped reopen the old wounds, by quoting Brand as saying, "I love Tulsa. There's only one thing wrong with the whole city. Noel Lemon."