With the distinctive padded wall of blue in the background, Italy World Cup striker GIORGIO CHINAGLIA (9) and Peru World Cup midfielder RAMON MIFFLIN (15) jubilate over a goal scored by the legendary New York Cosmos on the grounds of historic Yankee Stadium in the Bronx during the 1976 North American Soccer League campaign.
The arrival of West Germany’s regining World Cup champion FRANZ BECKENBAUER of powerhouse Bayern Munich – winners of the prestigous European Cup of Champions three consecutive seasons now – was still a year away as was the significant relocation across the Hudson River to newly-constructed Giants Stadium in New Jersey. The all-time record for average attendance per match (47,856) was still two years down the road, as well, and the memorable string of North American Soccer League championships had yet to be procured. Nevertheless, the Soccer Revolution was already well underway during the Bicentennial in the Big Apple as three-time World Cup-winning megastar PELE of Brazil was back in town for a second season with the emerging New York Cosmos.
The incomparable Pele shot five goals in nine games to finish the 1975 NASL campaign after coming out of retirement to sign a lucrative deal with entertainment giant Warner Brothers, the owners of the New York Cosmos, paying the lucrative amount of $ 1.4 million dollars annually. As was specifically mandated in the Brazilian’s contract, the Cosmos moved decisively to strengthen the team around Pele and the entire playing staff was given a major overhaul in the off-season. Italy World Cup striker GIORGIO CHINAGLIA, the 1974 Serie A scoring king still just 29 years old, was lured away from SS Lazio of Rome with a contract for a reported $ 840,000 over three years while Peru’s 1970 World Cup midfielder RAMON MIFFLIN was recruited from Pele’s old outfit in Brazil, FC Santos.
The veteran player-coach GORDON BRADLEY, who had served in that capacity for New York City’s NASL team since the club’s inception in 1971, was given a front office job and replaced by a countryman with plenty of experience in English professional football. Former FC Watford and Blackburn Rovers boss KEN FURPHY had been sacked by First Division side Sheffield United in October of 1975 but was seen by the Cosmos as the right man to take charge of the side with the world’s most famous footballer. A wave of British signings, highlighted by three players from Sheffield United and also including Northern Ireland international midfielder DAVE CLEMENTS of FC Everton as well as seasoned Aston Villa defender CHARLIE AITKEN, who earned a solitary cap for Scotland over his long career, immediately ensued.
The New York Cosmos also purchased two standout American players from the Philadelphia Atoms for a fee of $ 100,000. Both had helped the side from the City of Brotherly Love to the NASL crown in 1973. Goalkeeper BOB RIGBY, an All-American at tiny East Stroudsburg State College in northeastern Pennsylvania, was a big acquisition for a Cosmos team looking to better 1975’s mark of 10 wins and 12 losses and looking to make the playoffs for the first time since having captured their one and only title to date in 1972.
Despite all the improvements to the roster, the New York Cosmos did not start the 1976 season firing on all cylinders. There was dissension in the ranks, as not all were impressed with Furphy’s tactics and strategies. Pele was being deployed in midfield and, reportedly, unhappy that fellow Brazilian NELSI MORAIS, who had been signed by the Cosmos from FC Santos on his recommendation, was underutilized by the English manager in the middle of the park. Chinaglia, who forged a strong personal relationship with Cosmos financial kingpin STEVE ROSS, was publically critcal of what he labeled a “third division English mentality.”
The Cosmos, who by now had moved into baseball’s legendary Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, were doing better at the gate with international stars such as Chinaglia and Pele now scoring the goals. New York would nearly double its attendance from the previous season with an average of 18,477 spectators per contest even if the real eye-popping numbers at the box office were still down the road. And the team had still yet to attain its elite status in the NASL, as evidenced by the early-season 5-1 rout at the hands of the Tampa Bay Rowdies.
Expectations were not being met and, to make matters worse, Rigby was put out of action thru injury in the unlucky thirteenth game of the year. With the all the money invested but the New York Cosmos just plodding along with the only slightly-improved mark of eight wins and six losses, it did not take long for patience at the top to wear thin. And so, Furphy was fired having lasted only a little more than halfway through the tumultuous 1976 NASL campaign.
With United States international goalkeeper BOB RIGBY at the back post on the infield dirt at legendary Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, Northern Ireland international midfielder DAVE CLEMENTS (6) and Scotland international defender CHARLIE AITKEN (17) of the New York Cosmos await the corner opposite the visiting Minnesota Kicks during the 1976 season in the old North American Soccer League.
1976 NEW YORK COSMOS
gk – 25 – Bob RIGBY – United States int’l ———— Philadelphia Atoms
df – 34 – Charlie AITKEN – Scotland int’l ———— Aston Villa (Eng)
df – 31 – Keith EDDY – England ————————— Sheffield United (Eng)
df – 28 – Charlie MITCHELL – Scotland ————— Rochester Lancers
df – 24 – Bobby SMITH – United States int’l ——– Philadelphia Atoms
mf – 30 – Dave CLEMENTS – No. Ireland int’l —– FC Everton (Eng)
mf – 30 – Terry GARBETT – England —————— Sheffield United (Eng)
mf – 29 – Ramon MIFFLIN – Peru int’l —————– FC Santos (Brz)
fw – 30 – Tony FIELD – England ————————– Sheffield United (Eng)
fw – 29 – Giorgio CHINAGLIA – Italy int’l ———— SS Lazio Rome (Ita)
fw – 28 – Brian TINNION – England ——————– FC Wrexham (Wal)
gk – 32 – Sam NUSUM – Bermuda int’l
df – 37 – Gordon BRADLEY – England
df – 34 – Barry MAHY – England
df – 33 – Juan MASNIK – Uruguay int’l ———- Univ. Catolica Montevideo (Urg)
df – 30 – David PRIMO – Israel int’l —————- FC Hapoel Ramat Gan (Isr)
df – 28 – Luis DE LA FUENTE – Spain
df – 24 – Tony PICCIANO – Argentina
mf – 34 – Omar CAETANO – Uruguay int’l
mf – 32 – John KERR – Canada int’l —————– Washington Diplomats
mf – 28 – Julio CORREA – Uruguay int’l ———– Ctrl Cordoba de Rosario (Arg)
mf – 27 – Alfredo LAMAS – Uruguay
mf – 24 – Gil MARDERESCU – Romania
fw – 31 – Mordechai SPIEGLER – Israel int’l —– FC Maccabi Netanya (Isr)
fw – 29 – Americo PAREDES – Uruguay ———– CS Emelec Guayaquil (Ecu)
fw – 28 – Manoel MARIA – Brazil
fw – 25 – Joey FINK – United States int’l ———– Tampa Bay Rowdies
fw – 24 – Tommy ORD – England ———————- Vancouver Whitecaps
fw – 22 – Mark LIVERIC – United States int’l —– San Jose Earthquakes
Brazil’s three-time World Cup-winning superstar PELE (10) of the New York Cosmos does his thing and dribbles on the ball opposite the visiting Hartford Bicentennials during the 1976 North American Soccer League match at venerable Yankee Stadium in the Bronx.