Willy Roy appointed coach, On the brink

A Brief History of the Chicago Sting: Part 4

1979: At the end of the 1978 NASL season Willy Roy was appointed head coach. The Sting were on their way to becoming one of the best sides in the league and to insure continued success Roy brought in four new players who would all play their part in the franchises best season yet: Wim van Hanegem arrived from Dutch side AZ, Luigi Martini from SS Lazio, Thomas Sjoberg from Malmo FF along with former Feyenoord man Peter Ressell.

All number of club records were broken as the Sting scored 70 goals – Karl-Heinz Granitza weighing in with 20 – and the average home attendance increased to a respectable 8,000, 21,000 plus turning out at Wrigley Field to see the New York Cosmos defeated 3-1. The Fort Lauderdale Strikers were beaten in the first round of the playoffs (the Sting winning the best of three series by two wins to none) but the San Diego Sockers proved to be too strong for Chicago and booked a place at Soccer Bowl ’79 with a 2-0 win in California followed by a 1-0 victory at Wrigley Field.

1980: Phil Parkes, the former Wolverhampton Wanderers ‘keeper, became the Sting’s number 1, moving to Chicago from the Vancouver Whitecaps where he had played for the past three seasons and established himself as the NASL’s top glovesman. Also joining the Sting line-up were Ingo Peter (once of Borussia Dortmund) and Franz Mathieu, a Haitian defender, who joined from FC St. Pauli.

The Sting took the Central Division title with a 21-11 record, 16 of those wins coming in their first 19 games. Karl-Heinz Granitza was again leading marksman with 19 goals and 26 assists, while Arno Steffenhagen took second place with 15 strikes and 15 assists from midfield.

The 1980 campaign, and the 1980-81 Indoor Season that followed (the Sting’s first foray into the world of the indoor game), were major turning points as far as the Chicago public were concerned and the club started to attract large crowds on a regular basis. 26,468 saw the Sting take on the Tampa Bay Rowdies at Wrigley Field, 18,112 watched the Washington Diplomats home fixture, and two other matches drew crowds in excess of 16,000, while indoors 16,257 packed the Chicago Stadium for one game as the Sting’s reached – but lost – the NASL Championship finals.

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