Los Angeles Aztecs vs Seattle Sounders, NASL 1979

The king is dead, long live the king. After a retirement lasting merely a few months Johan Cruyff was lacing up his boots again. Only now, in 1979, he did not step out onto the hallowed pitch of Nou Camp. Death threats and constant police protection had marred his time in Barcelona leading up to the World Cup 1978. Trying to get away as far as possible Cruyff took his family to the United States.

His first destination was New York. As early as 1977 Cruyff had joined the fabled Cosmos of Pele, Carlos Alberto and Franz Beckenbauer for a number of test matches. A long-term deal never came to fruition, so Cruyff set out to conquer the West Coast instead. Arriving in Los Angeles he wanted to “try to build up soccer where it wasn’t popular”. Money likely played its part as well. Cruyff’s recent investments had not been as successful as his footballing exploits. The Aztecs were only too happy to oblige. Cruyff stood to earn a cool $1.4 million over the course of two seasons.

In LA he was reunited with Rinus Michels. Together the congenial player/manager duo had reigned supreme in Holland and Spain with Ajax and Barcelona respectively. On the world stage they had come agonizingly close, losing the World Cup final 1974 to West Germany 1:2.

Aztecs already playoff bound, Sounders reaching

As they line up for their penultimate match of the season their new empire looks paltry in comparison. The Rose Bowl would be jam packed with more than 90,000 spectators when football of the American variety is on display. For the Aztecs in 1979 on average only 14,334 fans show up. While that is a 65% increase on the year before, those in attendance on the day look forlorn in the expanse of the giant stadium.

The LA Aztecs, though, are one of the premier sides in the league. Sat in second place of the Western Division, they are already assured a spot in the playoffs. Visitors Seattle are in with a shout but need to win their two remaining matches to prolong their campaign. Struggling to survive the cut from 24 to 16 teams hardly suggests a team of championship pedigree. However, the Sounders do come into this having just put nine past the Edmonton Drillers in a shutout victory. Whether that says more about Seattle or Edmonton the following ninety minutes would tell. Continue reading

Kings Of Rome, Or: How Totti & Co. won the Scudetto ’00/01 (w/ Marco Ciarla of @CurvAmerica)

Amadei, Falcao, Totti: a lineage of great footballers and, as far as Romanisti are concerned, kings; for each of them had been instrumental in Roma claiming their Scudetti. Amedeo Amadei was the side’s top goalscorer during the 1941/42 campaign. Paulo Roberto Falcão pulled the strings in midfield as the Giallorossi for the first half decade of the 1980s, in ’82/83 Roma came out on top.

In 2000/01 AS Roma won their third, and to date last, Scudetto. Led by 24-year-old playmaker Francesco Totti the Giallorossi beat out an incredibly stacked field to claim the league. The other team from Rome had broken Juve’s stranglehold the year before. They, as well as Parma, relied on seemingly inexhaustable war chests, luring many of the world’s best players to Serie A. Juve, of course, wanted their crown back and still boasted an amazing side including Zidane, Davids, del Piero…

So, just how did Roma do it? Well that’s what we’re trying to figure out with this episode, talking tranfers, tactics, and performances. To help us, Marco Ciarla jumps in mid-way through the show. Marco is an avid Romanisti and part of the CurvAmerica podcast who talk Serie A on a weekly basis. As a bonus we get to pick his brains about where Roma (and Serie A) are headed in 2017. In between we, of course, talk about a lone match in way too much detail: Roma’s final league match against Parma.

Minutes if you want to jump around:

  • 0:01:45 Southern challengers for the Scudetto appear (Parma & Lazio)
  • 0:13:00 The 101 on AS Roma club history
  • 0:24:14 Franco Sensi buys Roma for 20 billion Lire in 1993
  • 0:34:45 Totti at loggerheads with Bianchi, center-piece in Cappello’s system
  • 0:43:00 Marco on the landscape of Serie A in ’00/01,
  • 0:53:15 And on Roma’s team set-up in ’00/01
  • 1:07:00 Quick run-down of Roma’s season
  • 1:17:15 Capturing the Scudetto on June 17th against Parma
  • 1:43:15 Aftermath
  • 1:58:30 Marco on Totti’s place in Roma’s club history,
  • 2:05:15 On Roma in 2017, Juve’s push for the triple
  • 2:13:45 And on what might happen in Serie A ’17/18

And some further reading for your perusal:

KSK Beveren vs FC Barcelona, ECWC 1978/79 Semi-final

Basel beckons. St. Jakob Stadium is set to host the final of the European Cup Winners’ Cup 1978/79. Fortuna Düsseldorf looks a likely finalist having beaten Banik Ostrava 3:1 in the first leg of their semi-final encounter. In the other match-up Barcelona secured the narrowest of leads against Beveren winning the meeting at Camp Nou 1:0.

On their way to Belgium Barcelona have picked up two black eyes. If Shakhtar Donetsk could hardly trouble Barça (3:0 & 1:1), Anderlecht and Ipswich had the Blaugrana on the ropes. Holders Anderlecht won the first leg of the Second Round encounter 3:0 but were beaten on penalties in Catalunya. Ipswich could only ensure a 2:1 advantage in their quarter-finals first leg and fell to that away goal when they lost 0:1 at Camp Nou.

Some uphill battle Beveren are facing then for their semi-final return leg. Then again Carles Rexach’s lone goal a fortnight before was the first goal Beveren had conceded in more than five hours of cup action. No small feat judging by the level of opposition the Belgian Cup winners had faced thus far. Ballymena United of Northern Ireland proved an easy enough appetizer in the first round (6:0 on aggregate). NK Rijeka of Yugoslavia (2:0 on agg.) as well as Internazionale (1:0 on agg.) proved trickier but were beaten nonetheless. Continue reading

Internazionale vs AC Milan, Serie A 1979/80

The Derby della Madonnina splits many a household in Milan. At casa Baresi in 1979 the bragging rights lay with Franco. The 19 year-old had yet to taste defeat against his older brother Giuseppe. Twice they had faced each other at the senior level. Both matches came during the Serie A season ‘78/79: Milan won the first 2:0, earned a point in the second (2:2), and went on to claim the Scudetto; sitting a cool eight points ahead of their city rivals Internazionale in the final table.

Franco had just broken into the first team. Appearing in all 30 matches he began to make a name for himself. With one caveat. Franco was “The Other Baresi”. The Other Other Baresi played for the Nerazzurri. Giuseppe had sufficiently impressed the Inter coaches during a trial in 1974. Franco had not. Milan needed some convincing too, but Franco found a new home at Milanello.

And what a time to join the Rossoneri, at least when it comes to the derby. From November 1974 all the way through to October 1979 Milan did not lose any match against Internazionale. Thirteen times they met in league or cup during that run. A more one-sided derby form was only enjoyed by Inter who went sixteen meetings without defeat just prior to World War II.

Heading into matchday 7 of the Serie A season ‘79/80 Internazionale sit atop the table, one point ahead of Milan in second place. Both sides from the Lombard capital are still unbeaten. Continue reading

Nottingham Forest vs Malmö FF, European Cup Final 1979

In the 1970s Nixon went to China, Han shot first, and Clough signed Francis. Securing the services of the 24 year-old forward cost him a king’s ransom: the total ran £1.18 million. It may well have taken a character like Brian Clough to break the seven digit barrier. No player in English football history had ever been transferred for much more than £500,000, let alone more than a million. In February 1979 plucky Nottingham Forest had gone and done just that.

Clough did not see what the fuss was about. To the press conference where Trevor Francis was to be unveiled to the gawping media Clough showed up in a red track suit, squash racket at the ready. The manager had appointments to keep. And anyway, he had run the numbers, Francis’ fee fell short of the magical million. Clough insisted he had haggled Birmingham City down to £999,999.

That Nottingham Forest were the club to splurge the cash around was in large part down to Clough’s exploits. A decade before Clough had gained promotion with Derby County from the Second Division. It took all of three seasons for the Rams to win the league title. After falling out with the Derby board Clough found himself at Brighton & Hove Albion in the Third Division. Lasting less than a year in East Sussex Clough moved on to Leeds. Within 44 days he had alienated every key player at his disposal and was shown the door.

Clough lifts Forest, Houghton Malmö

Taking the reins at City Ground in January 1975 Nottingham Forest sat 13th in the Second Division. Promotion was won in Clough’s second full season, the league title in his third. At best opinionated and outspoken, at worst abrasive and insulting, Clough was not afraid to step on anybody’s toes. Time permitting success backed him up. As it did in ‘78/79 when Nottingham Forest reached the European Cup final on their first try, leaving holders Liverpool, AEK Athens, Grasshoppers Zürich, and Köln in their wake. And they did it all without Francis. Having signed on only in February registration rules prevented Francis from participating in international matches. Until the final. Continue reading

Interview: Talking decades’ worth of football history with Lukas Tank

In a YYFP-first we bring a new voice into the fold. Lukas Tank (@SergiXaviniesta) was kind enough to join Sebastian for an hour long interview. Lukas has worked his way through football history, publishing his thoughts on the legends of the game along with his “Teams of the Decade” on his blog footballarguments.wordpress.com.

The over-arching theme for the talk turned out to be how yesteryear affects the modern game and what we can gleam from diving into old matches to help us understand football today.
We ran the gamut of topics, such as Cruyff’s ever-lasting importance, Matthäus’ longevity & standing in Germany, or who could be considered the greatest Italian player of all time?

Minutes in case you want to jump around:

  • 0:00:00 Intro
  • 0:03:00 What does Lukas’ process look like?
  • 0:09:00 Does the big stage make the big player?
  • 0:13:45 Could Benteke hack it in the ’60s?
  • 0:17:15 Where does Lukas’ fascination with football history come from?
  • 0:28:30 Who is the greatest Italian player ever?
  • 0:33:00 Does Matthäus’ longevity aid or hinder his all-time status?
  • 0:42:30 What might be learned about modern football by watching historic matches?
  • 0:47:00 Looking for exellence in football/sports history
  • 0:51:00 How did Lukas build his “Team Of The Decade ’75-85”; what are his criteria for inclusion?
  • 0:57:00 Which “Team Of The Decade” is the easiest to break into?
  • 1:00:30 Are we living in a silver or even golden age of football right now?