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June 9, 2013 at 11:46 PM

Sharing some unforgettable stories from the early years of U.S. Soccer

Photo credit: Johnny Closs, Seattle Times file

Photo credit: Johnny Closs, Seattle Times file

The U.S. Soccer Federation is celebrating its 100th birthday this year, and the organization has certainly come a long way, especially in the past few decades. Monday’s paper features a great story from our Joel Petterson recalling what the national team was like the last time a World Cup qualifier was played in Seattle, and here are a few more memories and tidbits Joel passed along from some players and people who were familiar with the program back then.

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“Everyone just assumes the U.S. Soccer Federation’s been recording all of their games all of these years, and actually starting in the ’90s they did start recording some of the games, but the amazing thing is the U.S. Soccer Federation’s archive is far inferior to mine. … So when they need tapes or DVDs of an old game, they call me.” – Dave Wasser, who operates a website dedicated to collecting recordings of national-team and old NASL games

“We’re playing this game in Haiti, and the practice match is in a fishing village where the brother is the coach and the other brother is the referee, and immediately they threw one of our boys out. So we played 10 men in a field that you could get killed on.” – Midfielder Juli Veee, on a 1976 exhibition match before playing Canada in Haiti

“In ’75, this guy at the L.A. Aztecs, Terry Fisher, who was supposed to be the first American coach, he says, ‘You want to play?’ And I said, ‘No, I’m laying linoleum and I have a family.’ And he says, ‘You don’t have to come to practice.’ And I said, ‘OK, I’ll play.’ He gave me 750 bucks a month.” – Veee, who didn’t play professionally from 1969 to 1975.

“They called me for the national team — he called me and I said, ‘I don’t have an American passport.’ I really didn’t apply for it when I came back in ’69. So I got it in one day, I think. They sent me to San Francisco. … In those days, it was done like that.” – Forward Boris Bandov, who was born in Yugoslavia

“(Houston Dynamo broadcaster Glenn Davis) said that when he was growing up his father was a big soccer fan, so his father took him to watch the 1974 and 1978 World Cups. They were showed on what was then called closed-circuit TV, which was basically like a theater; a movie theater would show a live broadcast and you’d have to pay an admission.” – Wasser, on the only way to watch live World Cup games in the U.S. before 1982.

“We played in El Salvador — it was in San Salvador or Santa Ana, one of those cities. And I remember this guy Greg Villa, and he’s built like an American linebacker — you know, like football. Six-three, like a typical linebacker body. So we were playing and there was some kind of commotion on the field, some kind of fight breaks out. And in the meantime, the El Salvador guys are all small, like 5-5, you know. And somebody tried to kick Greg. So he just turns around, and he looks at all their players, and he just started chasing them, and one guy went into the net. When he was getting chased, he got kind of lost and ended up going into the goal. So Greg just picked him up; just picked him up with like one hand.” – Bandov, on a national-team match in 1977

“We were playing a lot of the game from side to side. It wasn’t penetration, with someone getting the ball in a deeper position, having the ability to hold the ball and shield it, waiting for someone to come into the midfield in support, then being able to counter with a little bit stronger effort based on two or three different combination. I can recall many games where, at that particular time, you would get the ball defensively, the midfield would get it, you’d have two touches, and the ball would be lost.” – Defender Alex Skotarek, on the U.S.’s playing style in the 1970s.

“So we arrived in Newfoundland, they took us to a field to practice — the cows are out on the pasture. So we had to chase the cows off.” – Gene Chyzowych, on a 1972 World Cup qualifier played in Canada, when he was head coach

“We arrived by bus — all the windows were broken. All the windows in the bus were broken before we hit the locker room. … Then when we returned to report that to our executive board in the Empire State Building, they would say, ‘Coaches, this is your excuse. This is your excuse, these things didn’t happen, this is your excuse.’ ” – Chyzowych, on a game in Mexico


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