Soccer fans around the world mourned the loss of Portuguese legend Eusebio on Sunday as he passed away of heart failure at the age of 71. The Guardian in London wrote an eloquent obituary.
During his long, illustrious career, he entertained millions with his elegant play and prolific goal-scoring.
Ten years after starring at the 1966 World Cup in England, where he won the Golden Boot with nine goals in six games and helped Portugal reach the semifinals, Eusebio etched his name in Seattle soccer history.
Playing for the Toronto Metros-Croatia in the North American Soccer League, he helped the club reach Soccer Bowl ’76. The NASL’s championship game was being held at the Kingdome in late August four months after its official opening.
During the match, Eusebio put on a show for the 25,765 on hand as he scored what turned out to be the game-winning goal for Toronto in a 3-0 victory over the Minnesota Kicks.
Here are a few excerpts from the recap story written by Times sportswriter Vince O’Keefe, who was covering the title game:
…Lightly regarded throughout the early part of the season, the Metros still were underdogs when they came here for Soccer Bowl ’76. Sparked by Eusebio, one of the game’s greats, they scored once in the first half, twice in the second and were in control most of the way…
…Eusebio, playing with an injured instep, got the Metros off in front at 40:28 with a free kick that only a star of his magnitude could have executed. When a foul on a Kick defender gave the Metros a free kick from the 28-yard line, Minnesota lined six defenders up the required 10 yards away from Eusebio. His shot grazed the head of a Kick and rocketed into the upper left-corner of the net. Geoff Barnett, goalie, got a piece of it but the ball spun off his hands.
The former Portugal World Cup star almost got another one in a similar situation early in the second half. He shot another freebie, again from the 28; this time it dipped like a big-leaguer’s “drop” pitch and Barnett made a diving save…
O’Keefe also captured some of the postmatch celebrations and had this to write:
Toronto’s Eusebio struggled mightily with a champagne cork in the dressing room, while all around him ducked for cover. Then in true World Series tradition, he dumped it over a teammate’s head. Still unsmiling, he gingerly removed the wrapping from his injured left foot and told interviewers he was “very glad for the Metros, a good team. We also would like to thank very much the people of Seattle for putting this on…”
Let’s give thanks to Eusebio for his small, but special part of Seattle’s rich soccer history and his memorable contributions to the beautiful game.