Giorgio Chinaglia owned the Cosmos and Lazio. (Photo courtesy of the Cosmos)
On Thursday night, the New York Cosmos will host their first international friendly in more than three decades when they welcome FC St. Pauli (Germany) to Rocco B. Commisso Soccer Stadium in New York City for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff.
The last time the Cosmos hosted an international side came against Lazio on June 16, 1985, as the Italian Serie A team registered a hard-fought 2-1 win during a rainstorm at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.
At the time, the Cosmos played exhibition matches because the North American Soccer League had folded after the 1984 season. Cosmos legend Giorgio Chinaglia, who also owned Lazio, arranged to have both his clubs play a friendly, although word friendly certainly would not be the way to describe what transpired in front of 8,677 spectators that Sunday night.
Unfortunately, the game got out of hand rather early.
Referee John Zangrilli whistled a controversial penalty kick against Cosmos midfielder Amy Aly in the 16th minute for fouling Lionello Manfredonia as one newspaper questioned whether the Italian player should have gotten an Academy Award for his histrionics.
After Bruno Giordano converted the penalty kick, the match quickly deteriorated with vicious flying tackles and elbows. Cosmos defender Andranik Eskandarian was given his marching orders for fouling Oliviero Garlini in the 22nd minute, leaving the hosts with 10 men for the rest of the game. Lazio’s Garbiele Podazini also was sent off. Zangrilli, co-founder of the Garden State Soccer League and a member of the Mercer County Soccer Hall of Fame, also handed out six yellow cards. He whistled 46 fouls, 26 on the Cosmos.
Manfredonia put home a rebound of a 30-yard shot by Dutch international Michael Laudrup that caromed off goalkeeper Hubert Birkenmeier in the 43rd minute.
The Cosmos got on the scoreboard in the 85th minute as Vincenzo D’Amico scored on a penalty kick after Joao Batista was tripped in the box. No one realized it at the time, but it would be the last goal by a professional team called the New York Cosmos until Peri Marosevic tallied in the 44th minute a 2-1 win over the Fort Lauderdale Strikers on Aug. 3, 2013.
The 1985 game ended in a brawl. Cosmos defender Vojislav Vukcevic jumped on the back of a Lazio player, the North Jersey News reported. Teammate Dragan Vujovic ran around the field kicking and punching several Lazio players.
The Cosmos held their first international match nearly 50 years ago when they welcomed Hearts of Scotland to Yankee Stadium on May 21, 1971. Striker Don Ford, a 5-8, 140-lb. dynamo, struck for a hat-trick to lead the Scottish side to a 4-2 win before 2,189 rain-drenched spectators. George Flemming had the visitors’ other goal. Ceyhan Yazar tallied both goals for the Cosmos, assisted by Charlie McCully and Siggy Stritzl, respectively.
Whether it was the Trans-Atlantic Cup, an annual tournament of international matches at Giants Stadium, or several high-profile retirement games for the likes of Pele and Franz Beckenbauer, the Cosmos always have had a tradition of hosting some memorable international matches and moments.
On Thursday night, the Cosmos will continue that tradition against FC St. Pauli.