Giorgio Chinaglia enjoyed a night for the ages 38 years ago today. (Andy Mead/YCJ Photo)
By Michael Lewis
Giorgio Chinaglia forged his reputation scoring goals, lots of goals. But he never quite experienced an outdoor game like the one he did Aug. 31, 1980.
The veteran striker scored seven goals — that’s right, seven goals – in the Cosmos’ 8-1 thrashing of the Tulsa Roughnecks in the North American Soccer League playoffs before 40,285 spectators at Giants Stadium.
Seven goals? Some teams might call that a good month.
For Chinaglia and the Cosmos, it was a mind-blowing, record-smashing night (today is the 37th anniversary of the game).
“Scoring seven goals doesn’t happen every day,” he said as he turned boos from Cosmos fans into cheers and chants.
When the final whistle sounded, Chinaglia had set seven records. That included most goals in a playoff game, most goals in a half (five), most points in a playoff match (15; remember the NASL awarded players two points a goal and one for an assist), mot points in a half (10), the shortest time between two goals (4:48), career postseason goals (29) and career playoff points (65).
Minnesota Kicks striker Alan Willey had scored a record five goals against the Cosmos in a 1978 playoff game against the Cosmos.
Chinaglia, who had tallied twice in the opening playoff encounter with Tulsa (a 3-1 away win), said he remembered virtually all of his goals and he did not forget what Willey did to the Cosmos two seasons prior.
“Of course I remember,” he told the New York Daily News. “That’s why I tried extra hard to get a fourth and another and another.”
Cosmos head coach Hennes Weisweiler needed to take an extra dose of eye drops in the locker room afterwards.
“You see, my eyes can’t believe what they just saw,” he said. “Unbelievable. In my 30 years in soccer, I haven’t seen anything quite like it.”
Added NASL commissioner Phil Woosnam: “He was unbelievable. He’s one of the all-time greats of scoring.”
During the run of play, Chinaglia scored one with his left foot, three with his right foot and one with his head. Two came via penalty kicks.
“We watched for Giorgio,” said Franz Beckenbauer, who had the audacity to score the Cosmos’ other goal.
“I can’t remember Gerd Mueller [former German international striker], one of the famous scorers with Pele, ever scoring seven goals in one game. It was an absolute record. You could see the team giving him the ball during the game.”
Chinaglia, who led the league with 32 scores in the regular season, started his assault on goalkeeper Eugene DuChateau, a Queens, N.Y. native and an Adelphi University graduate, converting a give-and-go with Vladislav Bogicevic at 21:33 (that’s how the original NASL kept time back in the day). He slid on the wet artificial turf and tumbled into the net with the ball.
He doubled the lead on a penalty kick at 26:41 after David Robb had brought down Bogie in the box.
After Bily Caskey cut the lead in half, Beckenbauer restored the two-goal bulge for a 3-1 halftime advantage.
The second half was all Chinaglia and the Cosmos as he connected an incredible five times.
Chinaglia scored a pair of early second-half goals. He converted a penalty kick at 51:39 after Barry Wallace fouled Francois Van Der Elst in the penalty area. He added No. 5 as Van Der Elst sent a cross across the goalmouth that the Cosmos striker tapped home at 56:15.
His sixth goal came via a diving header at 80:15 off an Eskandarian feed.
Chinaglia called that goal his best one. “Because I had to go so low,” he said. “I thought I’d break my nose.”
And his seventh score came at 88:16 from inside the box.
In her story, Daily News writer Lawrie Mifflin, noted that three Roughneck players tried to cover and limit Chinaglia, without much success. Sweeper Johannes Edvaldsson was moved to an attacking role when the score was 3-1 and when stopper Kevin Eagan was beaten on the fourth goal, Victor Moreland was told to mark the Cosmos striker.
“Chinaglia finished ’em all off, but there was some great passing to set him up,” Cosmos center back Jeff Durgan told the Daily News. “He got some great balls — not to take anything away from George, though. I was shell-shocked watching, as I’m sure DuChateau was.”
The other big news of the night might have been the fact that the Giants Stadium faithful actually cheered and not booed Chinaglia, a frequent target of the fans’ venom. Of course, it took a few goals into his fabulous feat to sway them over.
“It’s very satisfying,” Chinaglia told reporters afterwards. “It’s been a long time for me. You don’t hear the boos and that’s alright.”
In fact, by the end of the night, the former Lazio forward heard the supporters chant, “Giorgio! Giorgio!”
“The last time? I scored five goals once in Yankee Stadium in 1976 and they chanted by name,” he was quoted by the Daily News. “But that’s a different stadium.”
Chinaglia went on to finish the playoffs with a record 18 goals, giving him an even 50 for the season. That is the North American first division record for goals in one season.
He did score seven goals in a match one other time, but that was in an NASL indoor soccer game. And that is another story for another time.