Nearly everything that I've written about the NASL in this series of posts on American soccer history has been about the New York Cosmos. That's not surprising, considering that they were the NASL's biggest story and that I'm originally from New York and lived there for part of the Cosmos era. But it's time for something completely different. So, thanks to suggestions from Dave Brett Wasser, Kenn Tomasch, Frank McDonald, Steve Holroyd, Peter Wilt, Bill Archer and Dave Kilpatrick, here are some particularly memorable NASL games in which the Cosmos didn't play.
Toronto Metros-Croatia 2, Tampa Bay Rowdies 0, Tampa, Fla., Aug. 24, 1976: Tampa Bay had won the NASL title in its first season, 1975, and led the regular-season standings in its second season. Going into this game, which was a semifinal of the NASL playoffs, the Rowdies had never lost a playoff game. So, adding all that up, it doesn't really seem all that surprising that they booked a flight to Seattle, were the NASL Soccer Bowl was to be played, before this game. However, Eusebio gave Toronto an early 1-0 lead, heading a cross from Ivair Ferreira in off the post. Tadeusz Polak made it 2-0 before halftime. As the second half wore on, the Rowdies themselves understood what a big hole they were in, but their public address announcer was still reading advertisements for trips to the Soccer Bowl. In the Rowdies' defense, it should be noted that they were far from the only NASL team to suffer from hubris.
Chicago Sting 1, San Diego Sockers 0, Chicago, Sept. 21, 1981: A big crowd, 39,623, came out on a rainy, cold Monday night, and were rewarded by seeing the home team advance to the NASL final for the first time after a dramatic, end-to-end struggle. The 90 minutes and the overtime were scoreless, but the Sting finally got the victory in the shootout, with Franz Mathieu scoring the deciding goal.
Seattle Sounders 4, Fort Lauderdale Strikers 3, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Sept. 8, 1982: Fort Lauderdale had won the first game of the semifinal playoff series and seemed headed for the Soccer Bowl with a 3-2 lead in the closing seconds of the second leg. But a giveaway led to a last-gasp equalizer by Roger Davies, and the Sounders got an overtime winner by Kenny Hibbett to tie the series at a game apiece. Seattle then got the Soccer Bowl berth by winning the third game two days later.
Rochester Lancers 2, Dallas Tornado 1, Rochester, N.Y., Sept. 1, 1971: In the first leg of a playoff semifinal, two of the NASL's early mainstays battled through nearly three hours (including six overtimes) before the longest NASL game ever was decided. After 90 minutes of regulation and 86 minutes of overtime, Carlos Metidieri scored the game winner for Rochester.
Tampa Bay Rowdies 6, San Diego Sockers 0, Tampa, Sept. 7, 1980: This was the second leg of a playoff series, in which San Diego had won the first leg by 6-3, and if the NASL had been using total goals as the deciding factor, the Rowdies would have won the aggregate, 9-6. However, they and their fans went home unhappy. The rout tied the series at a game apiece, the "mini-game" that followed was a 1-1 tie, and San Diego won the shootout to take the series. A four-goal performance by Tampa Bay's Wes McLeod went for naught.
Minnesota Kicks 5, Chicago Sting 4, Bloomington, Minn., July 11, 1979: Minnesota won a controversial shootout after a game that featured a wild second half. The score had been 0-0 at halftime, but eight second-half goals sent the game into overtime and eventually to the shootout.
Los Angeles Aztecs 4, Miami Toros 3, Miami, Aug. 25, 1974: Ricardo DiReinozo, Uri Banhoffer and Doug McMillan scored goals for the Aztecs, and Los Angeles then claimed its only NASL title by winning on penalties.
Chicago Sting 3, Toronto Blizzard 2, Toronto, Oct. 3, 1984: A late goal by Pato Margetic and an even later desperation save by Victor Nogueira on Toronto's Robert Bettega gave Chicago the victory in the last NASL game ever played, the second leg of the 1984 final.