The Chicago Sting pulled what is proving to be one of the NASL's biggest coups when they bought 20-year-old forward Pato Margetic from the Detroit Express in December reportedly for as much as $200,000.
Duncan Hill, then Express general manager, said he was forced to sell his most marketable commodity after a disappointing season in Detroit, three months before he knew the franchise would be moved to Washington.
The new Diplomats could use Margetic now. The club's biggest problems have been poor attendance and weak wing play. The speedy Margetic is among the three best wingers in the league this season and his flowing blond hair and good looks have made the Argentine one of Chicago's most popular athletes.
After missing the last four games with a pulled hamstring, Margetic will start Sunday afternoon when the Sting -- in first place in the Central Division with a 10-4 record -- play the struggling Diplomats in Comiskey Park.
Since joining the Sting, Margetic has scored three goals and assisted on nine. More importantly, his exceptional speed and ball handling ability give Chicago an artistic player up front who increases the effectiveness of striker Karl-Heinz Granitza, the league's second-leading scorer.
"I can't wait to see the (Diplomts) tomorrow," Margetic said this morning after practicing for two hours in a Windy City downpour. "I really miss my friends from Detroit. I didn't want to be sold, but Duncan Hill said the club didn't have much money and we were going to find it hard to agree on a contract. I believed Duncan. But Chicago offered me more money so I came here."
Chicago's acquisition of Margetic was the final brush stroke in creating a masterpiece.
"Our team and the Cosmos are the best two in the league," Margetic said today."It's hard to tell which, if either, is better because we've only played them once (and won). But we think we have a very good chance of making it to the Soccer Bowl."
Washington Coach Ken Furphy likes to put superb center halfback Peter Carr on the opposition's biggest scorer. Carr has shut out almost every big scorer he has marked this season, including Chinaglia twice. But in order to defense Granitza effectively, one of Carr's teammates must contain Margetic.
"We have a great one-two punch going so far," Margetic said. "I played very well before my injury. And I was glad to hear that a lot of people in Chicago have been calling the front office to ask when I was coming back. Well, I'm back now."
One game too soon for the Washington Diplomats.