FireStingDoug takes a trip back to 1981 as the Sting played for a chance to advance to the Soccer Bowl. A game he attended at Comiskey Park on September 21, 1981 against the San Diego Sockers would lead to the Sting’s first title opportunity………
“A deciding game three of the semi-final series against the San Diego Sockers was played on a wet field at Comiskey Park. This caused some concern for Sting coach Willy Roy as Pato Margetic had just returned to the line up in game two after a long absence due to a hamstring injury.
The Sockers played a cautious first half as the Sting chose to attack with the same line-up used during a victorious game two. A very physical game that saw several chances for both sides stopped by the opposing goalkeepers remained scoreless through regulation and headed into a tension filled overtime session.
The Sting appeared to be on their way to taking the lead in the ninth minute of overtime when Ingo Peter was tripped in the box setting up a penalty kick. Derek Spalding, who was usually automatic from spot was denied by Sting nemesis Volkmar Gross whose diving save kept the Sockers alive and pushed the game into a shootout to decide which team would advance to the Soccer Bowl.
The Sting was 3-0 during shootouts but the confident, seemingly always smirking Gross stood in the way. Julie Veee scored on San Diego’s first chance during the shootout but Margetic quickly tied it as he dribbled around Gross and tapped the ball into the net.
In the second round Kaz Deyna scored for San Diego but Charlie Fajkus missed his chance for the Sting. The third round saw Dieter Ferner stop San Diego’s chance but Derek Spalding failed on the Chicago attempt to keep the Sockers in the lead.
In round four, Sano missed high for San Diego allowing Dave Huson to tie the shootout by once again driblling around the Sockers’ keeper. Martin Donnelly was stopped by Ferner in round six after both teams failed to score in round five. This set up a chance for the Sting to advance to the Soccer Bowl with a conversion of the next shootout attempt.
Willy Roy selected Franz Mathieu, who had the speed and skill to dribble around most players in the NASL. Mathieu approached goal with the imposing Gross coming towards him and with a few quick moves manuevered around him to tap home a winner and send the Sting on to Soccer Bowl ’81.
With the crowd cheering wildly and players running around the field the Comiskey Park scoreboard exploded with fireworks as sirens blared. Gross continued to sit in front of his goal in disbelief as fans poured onto the field in excitement taking down the nets and carrying Franz Mathieu around in triumph.
I couldn’t believe my eyes watching a Chicago team celebrating a chance to play for a title for the first time in my memory. The local television news crews were in attendance as the Sting won the right to play the New York Cosmos in Toronto for the championship.”