Archive for the ‘USA’ Category

Pick that one out!

Carlos Farias of the Omaha Vipers scores the MISL 2010-11 goal of the season with an overhead kick that Rooney would be proud of …

Sting debut in MISL

A Brief History of the Chicago Sting: Part 9

1982-83 (Indoor): In the fall of 1982 agreement was reached between the NASL and the MISL to allow three franchises – the San Diego Sockers, the San Jose Earthquakes and the Chicago Sting – to join the MISL for the upcoming 1982-83 indoor season. With a regular season stretching from November to mid-April and comprising 48 games per team (compared to just 18 games in the NASL Indoor League the previous season) the Chicagoans had effectively signed up to play two full seasons a year, of two very different types of soccer.

Even so, the Sting, who were assigned to the Eastern Division, acquitted themselves well taking place in a three way race for the division title, with the veteran Cleveland Force and the Baltimore Blast, eventually finishing third, two games behind the Blast in first place, and one behind the Force in second place, with a 28-20 record.

In the first round of the playoffs experience was a telling factor at Cleveland eased into the next round winning the best-of-three series 5-9, 5-4 and 7-5.

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.

Sting set US indoor attendance record

A Brief History of the Chicago Sting: Part 7

1981-82 (Indoor): A dramatic and high scoring season saw the club top the Central Division pipping the Tampa Bay Rowdies to the title in the final game of the regular season. A then record attendance for an indoor soccer game in North America of 19,398 saw the Sting come from 8-4 down to beat the Rowdies 10-9 after sudden death overtime.

Chicago had topped the division for most of the season and remained undefeated in regular season play at the Chicago Stadium. Highlights en-route to the title included the 10-3 defeat of the Montreal Manic, a 10-4 victory over the Tulsa Roughnecks and a 6-3 win against the New York Cosmos at home while on the road impressive 6-3 and 6-5 wins were recorded against, respectively, the Toronto Blizzard and Jacksonville Teamen.

Even more impressive were the growing attendances at the Chicago Stadium where the Sting were outdrawing the Chicago Bulls (NBA) and fast catching up with the crowds pulled in by the Chicago Blackhawks (NHL). Besides the record crowd of 19,398 for the Tampa Bay Rowdies game, 18,374 saw the New York Cosmos game, 13,000 turned out for the regular season game against the Tulsa Roughnecks while 16,000 attended the playoff game against the Oklahoma side.

Sting set US indoor attendance record

It was against the Roughnecks that the Sting made an unexpected and early exit from the playoffs having been widely tipped to add the indoor crown to the Soccer Bowl trophy won the previous summer. The Sting lost the best of three game opener in Tulsa 5-4 but in a dramatic return at the Chicago Stadium the Sting turned a 6-1 deficit into a 7-6 victory, Karl-Heinz Granitza scoring the winner five minutes into sudden death overtime.

With the series tied at one game each a 15 minute mini-game followed. The Roughnecks took a three goal lead, the Sting pulled a goal back but there was to be no dramatic comeback in this game as the Roughnecks advanced into round two of the playoffs with a 3-1 win to take the series by two games to one.

Karl-Heinz Granitza finished the season as the leagues second highest scorer (behind Julie Veee of the San Diego Sockers) with 35 goals and 36 assists. In the home game against the New York Cosmos on January 30th he scored a hat-trick, as the Sting won 5-3, extending his indoor scoring streak to 35 consecutive games. Three games earlier he had beaten the leagues existing record of 32 in the 6-5 overtime win against the Jacksonville Teamen.

Chicago Power 12 Dayton Dynamo 5

23-02-1992 Chicago Power 12 Dayton Dynamo 5 (NPSL) Rosemont Horizon, Rosemont, Illinois

I’ve been banging on in recent posts about indoor soccer and in particular the Chicago Stings exploits in the NASL Indoor League and the MISL, and l here I go again. In 1988, two years after I last saw them in action, the Sting folded but the city of Chicago had been without an indoor soccer side for no more than a matter of months when along came the Chicago Power.

The Power joined the NPSL as an expansion franchise for the 1988-89 season, playing at the 14,500 seat Rosemont Horizon, in the north Chicago suburb of Rosemont. Under player-coach Karl-Heinz Granitza – who had won two outdoor NASL Championships with the Sting and was quite easily the Stings best ever player – the Power made the playoff finals in their very first season losing the best of five championship series to the Canton Invaders by three games to two.

Two years later, and prior to the 1990-91 campaign, Illinois businessman Ron Bergstrom purchased the team and together with new player coach Pato Margetic – another former Chicago Sting fan favourite – assembled a squad that would finish the season as Champions. Margetic was named the league’s “Coach of the Year” as the Power made a clean sweep of the championship series against the Dayton Dynamo with three straight wins.

Attendances at the Horizon for the championship run-in hovered around the 4,000 mark and the Power were hoping to pull in around 5,000 a game the following season, the one and only time I saw them in action. I don’t know whether they reached that target but here is the commercial they were using to woo potential fans…

Shortly after my visit, and a 12-5 win against the Dayton Dynamo, the Power made the playoffs again but were unable to retain the Championship going out at the semi-final stage. The following season – 1992-93 – they couldn’t progress beyond the first round of the play-offs and a slow decline began.

They failed to make the playoffs in any of their three remaining seasons winning just six of their forty games in 1995-96 and were by all accounts pretty woeful managing to lose one game by a 35-5 scoreline. Bad even when the NPSL’s scoring system is taken into consideration (see below).

In the close season they were bought by Canadian entrepreneur Peter Pocklington and relocated to Edmonton, Canada where they became the Edmonton Drillers, and survived for just a further four years.

While I really took to the indoor game I’m afraid the one thing that spoiled it for me was the scoring system that the NPSL adopted. A scoring system not that dissimilar to the one used by basketball. A goal is a goal as far as I’m concerned but the American public enjoying high scoring sports and the following system was used to keep them happy I guess.

“Natural goals” and goals struck from the penalty spot were worth two points, power-play goals (a term used to describe a goal scored while an opposition player is confined to the sin bin) were worth one point, while goals scored from 50 feet or more were worth three points. So it would be possible to be two goals – sorry points – down with seconds to play and still win a game with a speculative shot from your own half of the field.

In the every changing world of professional soccer in the USA, Chicago have in latter years been represented in the indoor game by the Chicago Storm (formed in 2004 but on hiatus since the end of the 2009-10 season) and the Chicago Riot (formed in 2010 and still active).

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.

‘81 Championship Season

A Brief History of the Chicago Sting: Part 5

1981: The addition of Pato Margetic to the Sting front line – Margetic had joined from the Detroit Express – showed coach Will Roy’s attacking intent for the coming campaign, indeed the club would finish as the NASL leading scorers with 81 goals.

The turning point in the season came at the end of the June when a new club record crowd of 30,501 turned out at Wrigley Field to see the Sting beat the New York Cosmos 6-5 after a shootout. This signalled the start of an eight game winning streak.

The Central Division title was confirmed as the Sting completed the regular season with three straight home wins. The Dallas Tornado were beaten 3-1, the Minnesota Strikers by a 7-2 margin and the Tulsa Rough¬necks 5-4 to end the campaign with a 23 wins and 9 defeats.

In the first round of the playoffs the Seattle Sounders were beaten by two games to one and the Sting advanced to round two and a date with the Montreal Manic. A record soccer crowd of 58,542 in Montreal’s Olympic Stadium saw the Manic take the first game 3-2, but the Sting bounced back to win games two and three both by a 4-2 margin, game three being won despite being 2-1 down with nine minutes left to play.

The San Diego Sockers now stood between the Sting and a first Soccer Bowl appearance. Two late goals by the Californian side gave them first blood and a 2-1 win, but the Sting won game two by the same scoreline in front of 21,760 at Comiskey Park. Five days later 39,623 Chicagoans saw the Sting take the series with a 1-0 overtime victory at the same venue. The Sting were heading for a Soccer Bowl showdown with the New York Cosmos.