Soccer Bowl ‘81

A Brief History of the Chicago Sting: Part 6

Eighteen years without a major sporting honor ended for the city of Chicago as the Sting won the NASL Championship to give the Windy City its first professional sports title since the Chicago Bears had won the NFL Championship Game in 1963. On that occasion the Bears had beaten the New York Giants and the Sting’s triumph would be earned against another New York team, the Cosmos.

A crowd of 36,971 – including some 6,000 from Chicago – were on hand at Toronto’s Exhibition Stadium and they could have been forgiven for expecting a high scoring game as the two previous meetings between the Sting and the Cosmos that year had produced fifteen goals. So it was very much against the odds – after the normal 90 minutes and a further 15 minutes of sudden death overtime – that this game would end goalless.

Each side had plenty of scoring opportunities though, the closest of which came from the Sting’s Pato Margetic whose strike was saved by a fully extended Hubert Birkenmeier in the Cosmos goal, team mate Ingo Peter’s saw his header strike the woodwork, and an overhead kick by Giorgio Chinaglia went just wide of the Sting goal.

Despite that effort, Chinaglia, the NASL’s all-time leading scorer, was marshaled well by the defensive partnership of Frantz Mathieu and Paul Hahn, supply from the flanks by the Cosmos wingers was kept to a minimum by Dave Huson and Derek Spalding, the Sting’s two fullbacks, while in goal Dieter Ferner put in another exemplary shift. At the other end the Cosmos backline, aided by Birkenmeier, was just as effective.

Twice in regular season play the Sting had needed extra time to beat the Cosmos and the same would be the case in Toronto. New York took the lead after three rounds through Vladislav Bogicevic, Karl-Heinz Granitza then leveled things up before Ferner made a great save to keep out Ivan Buljan’s chipped shot. Rudy Glenn then stepped up to beat Birkenmeier to become the first native North American to score a winning goal in a Soccer Bowl.

Joint captains Ingo Peter and Spalding proudly accepted the Champion¬ship Trophy from NASL Commissioner Phil Woosnam to confirm the Sting as the North American Soccer League champions for 1981.

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