It did not turn out the way the North American Soccer League had hoped. There were no last-seemed heroics, no stunningly dramatic made-for-television moments.
Instead, Soccer Bowl '80 turned out just as the Cosmos had hoped yesterday. Their remarkable, talent-rich lineup, and the heat, wore down the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, allowing the Cosmos to walk away with a convincing 3-0 victory in front of 50,768 in RFK Stadium.
Thus, for the third time in four seasons, the Cosmos proved to the rest of the NASL that money can not only buy happieness, but the Soccer Bowl Trophy as well.
"Well, won't be a dynasty," said Giorgio Chinaglia, who scored two goals. "Now, other teams in this League are starting to spend money and get great players."
Yesterday, Chinaglia capped one of the most incredible playoff performances in the history of soccer by scoring twice and assisting on the other Cosmos goal. He finished the playoffs with 18 goals, four assists and figured in 22 of 25 goals the Cosmos scored in postseason play.
Ironically, it was the goal Chinaglia did not score yesterday that turned the game around. The Strikers had played the Cosmos to a scoreless tie the first half and, in fact, had the better scoring chances.
But less than three minutes into the second half, Chinaglia was taken down from behind by Arsene Auguste just outside the penalty box. On the ensuing free kick, Vladislav Bogicevic slid a short pass to Chinaglia, who blasted a shot from 20 yards.
Fort Lauderdale goalie Jan van Beveren, anticipating the shot, dove to his right. But the shot never reached him because the Striker defensive wall stopped it. The ball caromed off the crush of bodies right into the foot of Julio Romero, standing to left of the six-man wall.
Before Jeff Cacciatore, the 5-foot-2, 125-pound bantam striker, could reach him, Romero slammed an eight-yard left-footed kick into the net as van Beveren dived back too late.
It was 1-0 and there were still 42 minutes to play, but the game was over.
"We let them off the hook by not scoring the first half," said Striker Captain Ray Hudson. "I knew at halftime the team that scored first would win. Once they scored we didn't have the guns or the players to respond and come back. The enthusiasm just drained right out of us. We were done."
Chinaglia made certain they didn't come back to life. Once the Strikers fell behind it was obvious that Washington's summer heat, getting in its last licks with a depressingly humid, 95-degree day, was affecting them more than the Cosmos.
Chinaglia scored the clincher at 70:06. Ricky Davis, taking a pass from Wim Rijsbergen, set up Chinaglia just outside the box. Chinaglia turned on Ken Fogarty, who did a good job marking him all day. Chinaglia made the right move, Fogarty the wrong one and Chinaglia was alone with van Beveren. His left-footed shot beat van Beveren to the goalie's left.
As Chinaglia raced to the corner, where most of the Cosmos fans sat, with his arms upraised in triump, a Striker front office employe sat back and said quietly, "It was a good season."
"At that moment I knew we would be champions," said Cosmos Coach Hennes Weisweiler. "I knew then we would not lose."
The real drama of this match may well have been played out on Saturday at the Cosmos hotel after the team had gone through its final workout. Weisweiler, who admitted that he paced the hallways of the hotel until 5 a.m. Saturday thinking about his lineup, made a major decision: he would bench sweeper Carlos Alberto, the league's defender of the year the last four seasons, and move Franz Bechenbauer back to sweeper for his final NASL game.
"It was one of the hardest decisions I have ever made in soccer," Weisweiler said. "Carlos was a true sportsman about it. He said he understood."
Alberto, the former Brazilian World Cup Captain, did not seem in an understanding mood yesterday. When Weisweiler asked him to go in with 10 minutes left he waved him away.
"Why go in with 10 minutes left?" Alberto said. "I feel very bad. I have spoken with (Cosmos vice president) Rafael (de la Sierra) about this. I am not sure I can play for this coach again next year. I may not be back."
Beckenbauer, who played sweeper his entire career until the Cosmos moved him to midfield, was delighted with the decision. Weisweiler made the move because he wanted Bechenbauer at the back to help 19-year-old Jeff Durgan mark Beckenbauer's German compatriot Gerd Mueller.
"When Gerd saw me there he said, 'What are you doing here, go back to midfield,'" Beckenbauer said afterwards. "He did not want me back there."
With good reason. Durgan and Beckenbauer shut down the Fort Lauderdale offense all day. Mueller, who left after 39 minutes, was never a factor.
"I was surprised they never went to him," Durgan said. "He never really got into the game at all. Having Franz back there was fine with me. I don't see any difference between him and Carlos. Except for their accents."
Once Mueller exited, the Strikers were important up front. Their midfield, led by Hudson and Teofilo Cubillas, tried bravely to provide an offense but it was not quite enought. When the Strikers did have chances, especially in the first half, Cosmos goalie Hubert Birkenmeier was prepared. e
"We tried so hard in the midfield, just as we've done all year," said Hudson. "Eventually we just couldn't do it anymore. I can't tell you what I would give to have the Cosmos forwards. I mean they're absolutely demonic, just fabulous. Hell, they're just a great team. When a player of Alberto's class is left out, you know they have just an unbelievable lineup."
From Birkenmeier at the backup, through Beckenbauer and Durgan to Romero, Bogicevic and Angelo DiBernardo at midfield to Francois van der Elst and Chinaglia up front, this is the best team money can buy.
But the best of the best yesterday, as he has been throughout the playoffs, was chinaglia. Often booed at home, oftne accused by other players of being a glory-seeking gargage man around the goal, Chinaglia was superb in the most important game of the year.
When it was over, when he had received the MVP trophies both for the game and the playoffs, he grabbed the Soccer Bowl trophy and kissed it.
"We had something to prove this season, something to prove today," Chinaglia said. "I also had something to prove because unfortunately I must prove myself every game. There are many people who would like to crucify me if I make a mistake or if I fail."
But Chinaglia and his team did not fail. In the end, those that came hoping to bury Chinaglia and the Cosmos had to praise them.
Warner Communications, the conglomerate that owns the team, paid for this championship. Yesterday, the Cosmos earned it.