MatchDay Memory–1974: Part 7 (United States)

Forty years ago I came into the world and while I may not have made an impact on the game of soccer, it has surely made an impact on me.  Playing the game from a very early age, I didn’t start following the game until my early 20’s.  Starting with Manchester United, I eventually started reading everything I could get my hands on and watching whatever game was on, learning about the rich and complex history of the game.  My MatchDay Memory posts over the next few weeks will focus on events in world soccer during the year of my birth, 1974.  It is in no way a comprehensive summation but rather an examination of teams and incidents that I was drawn to in my research.

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Wrapping up with domestic matters, after reading David Wangerin’s Soccer in a Football World, 1974 seemed to critical moment in the history of US Soccer. From an organizational point of view, the United States Soccer Football Association changed their name to the United States Soccer Federation and the USSF appointed their first full time coach—German Dettmar Cramer.  Unfortunately he only lasted six months, leaving the US for Bayern Munich, but a step in the right direction.

The National Team failed to qualify for the 1974 World Cup and played very few games that year, which is in marked contrast to the number of games the USMNT plays these days.  Strangely enough Haiti qualified for the World Cup from the CONCACAF region, a thought that seems almost impossible today.  Haiti lost all three games but their goal against Italy ended Dino Zoff’s run of 1142 minutes without conceding a goal.

As for the American soccer scene, the American Soccer League (ASL) was still hanging around and the North American Soccer League (NASL) expanded westward, adding teams in Vancouver, Seattle, LA and San Jose, with these teams laying the groundwork for future MLS teams.  Reviewing the rules and point system of the league revealed some interesting tweaks of the traditional model. From Wikipedia:

If a match was tied after 90 minutes, it was to be decided by a standard penalty kick shootout and would appear in the standings as a ‘tie-win’. The tie-winner would gain three points, plus goals in regulation, while the loser of the tie-breaker received no points, except for regulation goals.  As for the point system, teams earned 6 points for a win, 3 points for a tie, 0 points for a loss, 1 point for each goal scored up to three per game.  As a result, the LA Aztecs had the best record with 110 points.

74miator-aztecs-8-25-232x300

LA defeated Miami in the NASL Final on penalties after a 3-3 draw in regulation.  As Wangerin noted in his book only 15,500 people showed up, the TV audience was poor and “not a single American-born player appeared in the match.”  The NASL, formed in the years after ABC televised the 1966 World Cup Final and American professional sports began their expansion, was barely surviving.  Things would change the following year with the arrival of Pele.

At the collegiate level, Saint Louis University was the dominant team of the late 60’s and early 70’s, appearing in seven of eight National Championship Finals, winning five of them.  But in 1974 the Billikens fell to Howard in the Final and their era of dominance came to an end.

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I chose 1974 simply because it was the year I was born, yet in reviewing the events of those 12 months it was interesting to see how many precursors and foundations and glimpses into the future were present.  The eternal battle between disciplined defenses against attack minded opponents; players and clubs searching for the next dollar/euro/monetary unit; shock results;  the constant emergence of new and dynamic talent from all around the world.  In 1974 I imagine that there were unknown pockets of activity around the world, complete with rich storylines and regional influence, and stories these days are now part of the worldwide narrative thanks to the internet and globalization.  Teams, players, coaches and cultures are more familiar and are part of a global fabric, with the game belonging to the world and being shared with the world.  Part of the sharing is this project, which was hard work, but informative and enlightening, and I hope you have enjoyed this look back into footballing history.

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Bibliography

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