Ray Hudson, captain of the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, set the stage for the Soccer Bowl in succinct terms yesterday. "We are here, we're glad we're here and we know we're the underdogs. It's us against the glamor boys."
The glamor boys, the Cosmos, came to town yesterday along with the Strikers for two reasons: to begin training of the RFK Stadium field for Sunday's championship game and to pump up the game locally.
"We've sold over 38,000 tickets and I'm sure we're going to sell the game out," Diplomat President Steve Danzansky said. "Everything's gone really well so far."
Ironically, it is the Strikers who were the center of controversy this season, dating back to preseason when Coach Cor van der Hart publicly cursed at several of his players while on a South American tour. Even now, van der Hart is battling with General Manager Bob Lemieux, who was consipicuously absent at the commissiner's luncheon yesterday.
The Cosmos have had -- for them -- a tranquil season with Hennes Weisweiler firmly in command as coach, superstar Giorgio Chinaglia happy and scoring almost at will and the stars seemingly at peace with one another.
"We have finally become a team instead of being a group of individual stars trying to do it by ourselves," Chinaglia said. "We have our problems like any team in the world but now, finally, we are truly a team. This is the best Cosmos team we have ever had, by far." w
The one problem for the Cosmos this week is the absence of Johan Neeskens, their outstanding Dutch midfielder. Neeskens left the club last week and has been suspended. He did not make the trip to Washington.
Additionally, the Cosmos are losing Franz Becknbauer next season. The German superstar has opted to finish his playing career in his home country and Sunday's game will be his last in the NASL. Beckenbauer has been bothered by a leg injury recently but said yesterday he will definitely play Sunday. "I cannot miss the final," he said. "That is impossible."
The Strikers' only potential problem is defender Ken Fogarty, with a serious ankle sprain. Van der Hart said Fogarty has a "50-50 chance of playing."
Van der Hart added that he was delighted the Strikers are listed as the visiting team because they won their three road games in the playoffs, then lost their three home games, before surviving each round by winning a minigame. The Strikers, to a man, were equally pleased that the game is being played on grass instead of AstroTurf, on which the Cosmos play in Giants Stadium.
"We will have time to get used to the grass," weisweiler said. "I am sure it will be a high-scoring game. I do not care how many Fort Lauderdale scores as long as the Cosmos score one more."
With that he took his glamor boys off to train.
The Strikers were born in Washington, as an amateur team called the Washington Brittanica. They became an American Soccer League team, then, as the Washington Whips, they joined the Nasl and eventually moved to Miami in 1974 as the Toros before settling in Fort Lauderdale in 1977 . . . Both Weisweiler and van der Hart, long-time European coaches, said they would urge FIFA, the governing body of international soccer, to approve the 35-yard line (which creates more offense) worldwide.