Have Your Say : This Day in 1981

In FireStingDoug's continuing series of trips down memory lane this edition takes a look back at the May 17, 1981 battle between the Sting and the New York Cosmos.  A match that was televised on WGN TV.

The Cosmos had world class talent but the Sting seemed to own them through the years holding an overall 4-1 all time lead in the series.  The May 17 game at Giants Stadium would entrench the Sting as the best team in the league with a victory. 


Derek Spalding and Arno Steffenhagen both missed the game due to injury but eighteen minutes in Karl Heinz Granitza scored on another free kick chance (this one from 20 yards out) to give the Sting a 1-0 lead.  The Sting sporting a unique all black kit in lieu of the customary black top with yellow shorts celebrated Pato Margetic's 21st birthday as the Argentine also scored in the first half to put the Sting up 2-0.  Margetic's goal was one of the best I've ever seen as he dribbled through defenders to get the ball to Granitza, who one touched it back to a streaking Pato who then beat two defenders firing a low shot past the keeper from 23 yards out. 

The Cosmos got back into the game as Francois Van Der Elst scored to narrow the margin to 2-1.  Just seconds into the second half New York was awared a penalty kick which Giorgio Chinaglia converted to tie the game. 

Just before the spot kick was taken Sting goalkeeper Phil Parkes went ballistic in protesting the call and received a yellow card.  The second half was loaded with yellow cards and Ingo Peter was issued a red card after retaliating on a chippy foul from Roberto Cabanas.  The Sting would have to play the remainder of the game a man down and without their coach as Willy Roy was sent to locker room after protesting Peter's red card. 

The Cosmos dominated the remainder of the second half but Parkes was outstanding in net, holding off the charge and getting the game into overtime.  With New York carrying all of the momentum and the Sting playing a man down on the road things seemed bleak until the Sting was awarded a free kick from roughly the same spot where Granitza socred in the first half. 

Granitza did it again, sending the kick over the Cosmos wall and into the net for a 3-2 Sting victory that most fans still remember today.  All New York goalkeeper Hubert Birkenmeier could do was throw his hands in the air in amazement. 

From May 17 on, the Sting led the Central Division for the remainder of the season and didn't look back.  This game put the entire NASL on notice that the Sting would be a dominant side for the rest of the year.  With their fourth win in a row, the Sting's record improved to 6-2. 


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  • This match was one of the best performances of the season by the Sting. The Margetic goal was a "take your breath away" moment. I re-watched this game recently and I got the same chills that I had that day in 1981.

  • I never watched the Sting - wasn't in Chicago then, didn't even know who they were - but I'm enjoying these recaps. Thanks for taking the time to bring us a blast from the past!

  • In reply to Modibo:

    You are welcome , it is great to look back at that team.

  • That game would be the swan song for Phil "Lofty" Parkes. Earlier in the week, he, Roy and Lee Stern all made up and it was decide not to pursue trade talks with other clubs. Then Parkes and Roy got into a fight in the next game (vs Minnesota) and Parkes was in the doghouse again. He got subbed out against Minnesota and only played a few minutes in a game a couple weeks later when Paul Coffee got hurt. Otherwise, Parkes was a non-entity. I remember watching a practice where he wasn't even allowed to go in net. Instead he served as a reserve field player. Some time later, he was shipped off to San Jose.

  • In reply to Lewis26:

    After all of these years , I still can not find any info anywhere about why Parkes fell out of the good graces of the Sting briantrust , do you have any idea?
    I was going to cover the Paekes thing in my next article , but yes , he did not take the field after halftime.
    The game he came into in the second half was in Vancouver and the reason was given that it was Parkes' first game back in Vancouver and they did not want to ruin his homecoming , I always found that hard to believe.
    I thought 2 things could have caused that feud,
    1,,, Parkes had a very bad series in the 1980 playoffs against San Diego and he was very shakey in the shootout , the ABC tv announcers noted nthat they could not believe Parkes took ony a few steps off the line against the shooters.
    2, He let 5 goals in on the first 6 shots in the first ever indoor game in Detroit.
    But as time has passed , it had to be more that that caused the Sting to really turn on him.

  • In reply to FireStingDoug:

    The feud started with Roy calling Parkes the goat in the San Diego playoff series. In game one, Parkes took his eye off a ball that hit the infield dirt and bounced over his head where Julie Veee was waiting to tap home an easy goal. Then after the mini-game, Parkes looked awful in the shoot-out ... again being called out by Coach Roy.

    The shoot-out performance was really a shocker as Parkes was normally pretty good in the shoot-out. He had won 3 of 4 shoot-outs in 1980.

  • In reply to Lewis26:

    Parkes only traveled to Vancouver because Dieter Ferner's immigration status hadn't been resolved. If he left the USA for Canada, he may not have been allowed back into the country. Similar for Paul Hahn.

    Parkes entered the Vancouver game with about nine minutes remaining. Coach Roy said he did it in case the game went to a shootout - that Coffee had struggled with the 1-on-1 in practice. Vancouver scored with under two minutes to seal a 3-1 win ... thus ending Parkes time as a Sting.

  • In reply to Lewis26:

    lol , imagine after saying Parkes was a goat after the San Diego 1980 shootout that he put Parkes in there in case there was a shootout ?
    It will be covered later but Paul Coffee looked very good in his only shootout of 1981 in Washingto against the New Washington Diplomats ( formerly Detroit Express ).

  • In reply to Lewis26:

    This game was the first game where the Sting changed the uniform code, the normal look was always black jersey and yellow shorts , this game they went with the black jersey and black shorts.

  • In reply to Lewis26:

    Oh that goal in San Diego that Veee put in , that was a nightmare.
    I always had a feeling it had something to do with his awful performance against the Sockers , do you remember it like I do that Parkes stood there on all 3 shootout attemps like he was glued to the line? I remember him just taking about 3 slow steps and never left his feet.

  • When Roy got red carded, it left the athletic trainer to "run" the team. Assistant coach Mike Grbic wasn't on the trip, nor was team captain Derek Spalding who was home with an injury. Roy was watching the game in the lockerroom. When he want to make a change, he'd tell Lee Stern who would then go into the field tunnel to relay the info to the bench. Stern later commented that he could save the cost of a plane ticket by having Roy stay at home to watch the game on TV ... but relented when he realized that the first couple TV games would be on tape delay that season.

  • In reply to Lewis26:

    Thanks for adding to the Sting stories EHartig!

  • In reply to cesba:

    Yes , I am enjoying his takes too.
    Isn't it amazing how we can remember 30 years ago but sometimes we can not remember what we did yesterday, lol

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