From 1968-84, the North American Soccer League captivated fans by attracting some of the world’s best soccer players. Back then, the game was different, from the style of play or the haircuts and shootouts, to the flat, arm-breaking turf and the unabashedly American commentary. The NASL also provided a formative soccer education for generations of Americans and Canadians and had a lasting impact on the North American sporting landscape. Below is a collection of seven great goals from the first iteration of the North American Soccer League by some of its most talismanic and iconic players.
Johan Cruyff’s ability to capitalize on an advantageous situation is second-to-none. Here, the Dutch maestro collects the ball in his own half and dribbles directly at the retreating defenders, forcing the first to overcommit and attracting two more Washington Diplomat defenders to collide as he shifts the ball to his left foot for a clinical finish.
The Seattle Sounders goalkeeper Tony Chursky thwarts a clever through ball by Giorgio Chinaglia, yet just when it seemed safe to put the ball down, Steve Hunt pokes it away and scores to put the Cosmos up 1-0 over the Seattle Sounders in the 1977 NASL Soccer Bowl.
Steve Wegerle’s devastating drop of the shoulder beats the first man and his quick footwork evades a lunging Cosmos defender before the South African drills a blistering shot from outside the penalty area beyond the reach of Shep Messing in goal.
Persistence pays off for the tenacious Italian as his header is cleared off the goal line. The Cosmos take a more direct route as Luis Alberto’s lofted ball is flicked on by Bobby Smith on to Giorgio Chinaglia. In a display of both exquisite control and bravery, Chinaglia spins away from the on-rushing Gordon Banks to score a true poacher’s goal.
Just when the attacking sequence appears to break down, Johan Cruyff’s silky play flips the script. The Dutchman seemingly dribbles into danger but with a drop of the shoulder and a burst of speed, Cruyff takes off toward goal, pushing the ball past hapless defenders before teeing himself up for a trademark left-footed finish.
“That’s almost as amazing as a bicycle kick. The ball is behind him and he kicked it into the net!” This unconventional and acrobatic goal by Roberto Cabañas is an act of instinctive brilliance and improvisation – and it’s better than a bicycle kick.
It’s often called the greatest goal in NASL history and it’s not hard to see why. George Best lays waste to defender after defender in a mazy run combining feints, fake shots, bursts of acceleration and Best’s ability to stop on a dime. Pele was telling the truth when he said, “George Best was the greatest player in the world.”