Defending champions fail to make playoffs

A Brief History of the Chicago Sting: Part 8

1982 (Outdoor): The possibility that the Sting would become the first defending champions to fail to make the playoffs since the Soccer Bowl’s inauguration in 1975 was certainly far from anyone’s minds when Chicago resumed NASL outdoor action in April. However, four straight losses in the opening month set the trend for what would become a topsy-turvy campaign.

The players had had little time to rest after a tough indoor season and the team and its management also had to adjust to a number of rule changes. First, the league had agreed to FIFA’s demands that offside rule should apply from the half-way line and not the NASL’s 35-yard line as had been the case since the leagues inception. Second, the league insisted that clubs have at least four North Americans on the field at any one time. The Sting had sufficient players to do so but was left with a surfeit of foreign stars and David Huson and John Tyma – who had both played their part in the 1981 success – were traded to other teams.

The first win of the season came against the Tulsa Roughnecks at Wrigley Field on May 1st but that was just a brief respite as the Sting slumped to a further four defeats to end the month with a 1-7 record. Then remarkably Frantz Mathieu – a firm fan favourite – was traded to the Montreal Manic, with Gordon Hill coming the other way, making his return to Chicago after a seven-year absence.

A break from league action saw the Sting take part in the Trans-Atlantic Challenge Cup. After holding Nacional of Uruguay to a 0-0 tie and defeating Italian Seria A side Napoli 3-1 they lifted the trophy with a 4-3 victory against the New York Cosmos in front of 36,904 at Giants Stadium, New Jersey. But after winning the prestigious trophy it was back to NASL action and another defeat in a 3-0 reverse at the Seattle Sounders.

Defensive mistakes, poor officiating and continuing injury problems dogged the remainder of the season although the Chicagoans did manage a run of three straight wins to briefly keep alive hopes of making the playoffs. The Edmonton Oilers were beaten 3-2 at the start of July, followed by the Fort Launderdale Strikers 3-0 and a 2-1 shootout victory against the Tampa Bay Rowdies.

Those slim hopes finally came to end with a 3-1 loss at the New York Cosmos, followed, ironically, by two excellent performances that saw the Sting defeat the Toronto Blizzard 3-1 and the Montreal Manic 2-1, both at Comiskey Park, to close out the season, leaving the Sting with the worst win-loss record (13-19) in its history.

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