FireStingDoug recalls what many thought was the best NASL match ever played at the time.
On June 28, 1981 the Sting hosted what many consider to be the biggest regular season game in team history. The New York Cosmos came calling and 30,501 fans packed Wrigley Field for the spectacle. A season sweep of the Cosmos would help to cement Chicago as the favorites to win it all if they weren't already.
Over the years the Sting made a habit of scoring early goals against the Cosmos and this time was no exception as Ingo Peter struck first. Dave Huson followed suit and gave the home side a 2-0 lead on a great goal that featured phenomenal one touch
passing in the Cosmos' penalty area. Huson came to the Sting as a winger, but coach Willy Roy felt he would be more valuable at full back. Roy was right. Huson supported the offense all season long with beautiful long distance runs turning defense into offensive energy instantly.
New York made it 2-1 on a goal by Giorgio Chinaglia, who then assisted on Julio Cesar Romero's score as the Cosmos came backed to tie the game at 2-2. With approximately 3 minutes left in the half, Charlie Fajkus won a ball in the opposing end and would not be
denied. Fajkus out-fought every challenging defender and put the ball in the net to give the Sting a 3-2 halftime lead.
Four minutes into the second half, the late Ivan Miljkovic provided a nice pass to Arno Steffenhagen who blasted a 27 yard bomb past Cosmos 'keeper Hubert Birkenmeier to give the Sting a 4-2 lead.
The Cosmos would once again tie the game with the same combo that provided their first two scores. Chinaglia and Romero both scored to tie things up at 4. In a game that already had enough excitement for 2 games both sides showed that there was more to come.
Just two minutes after New York levelled the score, Ingo Peter would hit another long range shot from just outside the penalty area to give the Sting an amazing 5-4 lead. As in the previous match in New York, Birkenmeier looked dazed and confused on shots that were taken from long range. The 5-4 lead was tested for the rest of the second half as both teams still managed to find enough energy to mount attack after attack.
With under a minute remaining in regulation, Ivan Buljan tied the game at 5 apiece. Neither team managed to score during overtime play and the match proceeded to the NASL's tie-breaking shootout format. The Sting's new goalkeeper Dieter Ferner had never faced a shootout so the experience was a new one for him.
The shootout attempts would be taken at the goal situated on Wrigley's right field side. The Cosmos shot first and scored on their initial attempt as Seninho dribbled to his right and beat Ferner. Derek Spalding failed to convert for the Sting but Ferner stopped Chico Borja in round two. Rudy Glenn followed the stop with a low shot to tie the shootout at 1-1.
In round three Bob Iarusci tried to dribble past Ferner, but the Dutchman smothered the ball. After Dave Huson was tackled by Birkenmeier during his attempt the Sting was awarded a penalty kick that Huson converted to give the Sting a 2-1 shootout lead.
Both teams failed to score in round four as Ferner denied Larry Hulcer and Birkenmeier managed to just get a fingertip on Paul Hahn's shot.
The stage was set for the final round as Chinaglia, who did not like to take shootout attempts stepped up for the Cosmos. New York needed a conversion or the match would end in favor of the Sting. As he dribbled in on goal and shot Ferner thwarted him to preserve the memorable victory.
The crowd went wild after the best regular season game in Sting history. The win moved the Sting's record to 12-7 and clearly made them the team to beat. The victory also gave the Sting a 6-1 all-time lead in the series against the Cosmos, something the team was very proud of.
Cosmos announcer Jim Karvellas was impressed with the match and went on to say it was the best NASL game he ever saw. Afterwards, Karvellas also declared that the victory was not only a win for Chicago but the real winner was soccer in North America.