Ralph Wright, who played a season with the original Cosmos and two other North American Soccer League teams, passed away on Sunday.
Wright was 72.
His former Miami Toros teammate Alan Tinsley announced the defender-midfielder’s passing on Facebook. Tinsley said Wright’s wife Jean told him that the ex-Cosmos had died.
In an interview with the New York Daily News in its June 24, 1973 edition, Wright, then 24, said he was intrigued about playing soccer in the United States.
“The whole idea of the American experience excited me,” he said, “coming over here to help soccer grow in this country, see the United States and make some beer money. Plus, it’s a way to stay in shape for the season back home. All in all, it’s not a bad deal I’d say.”
According to the Daily News, Wright earned in the neighborhood of $150 a week (equivalent to $866 today).
Wright was a fearless competitor, breaking his nose on seven occasions. He claimed it was just part of the job.
“This is a rough game, especially in England,” he told Dave Hirshey of the Daily News. “You can’t be concerned with looking pretty. I found it to be a very physical game in the states, too, but in a different way. In America, if you tackle a guy hard, he’s liable to turn around and have a swing at you. In England, he’ll make sure that the referee isn’t looking before he seeks vengeance. Much more professional, you know.”
Wright might have been destined to become a soccer player. During that interview he revealed that his first injury as a soccer player came when he crashed into the crib posts while diving for a loose ball.
“I think I learned to kick a soccer ball before I learned to walk,” he said.
He even was willing to take on the best, and that included Pele. In the closing minutes of the Cosmos’ 1-0 victory over the Toros on April 18, 1976, Wright, playing with Miami became involved in a slight altercation with the Black Pearl. Wright had used some bump-and-run tactics against the Brazilian superstar. Pele had enough and led the ball go by him and was sent sprawling with a body check. When Wright got up, he raced to Pele and kicked the legend in the shins.
Wright scored the first goal of the 1974 NASL championship game for the Toros, connecting off a header in the 17th minute. The game ended at 3-3 in regulation before the Los Angeles Aztecs prevailed in a penalty-kick tie-breaker, 5-3.
A defender-midfielder, Wright began his career in his native England with Norwich City in 1968-69. He moved to Bradford Park Avenue, Hartlepool United, Stockport County, Bolton Wanderers and Southport before joining the Cosmos for the 1973 North American Soccer League season.
After returning to his homeland to perform for Southport for the 1973-74 season, Wright came back to the United States with the Toros. He ended his USA sojourn with the Dallas Tornado in 1976.