Sigi Stritzl (second from the left) and Arnie Ramirez (to his right). (Photo courtesy of Arnie Ramirez)

By Michael Lewis Editor

Sigi Stritzl, a member of the New York Cosmos first championship team and a former U.S. international midfielder, has passed away.

He was 78.

Former Long Island University men’s head coach Arnie Ramirez reported Stritzl’s death on his Facebook after former U. S. men’s national team player Helmut Kolfer told him that the midfielder had died in a car accident on Thursday. Ramirez played against Stritzl when the former performed for Blue Stars Juniors back in the day.

Born as Siegfried Stritzl in Yugoslavia on April 12, 1944, he and his family emigrated to the United States and lived in New York City. While growing up, Stritzl played with Blau-Weiss Gottschee for seven years, helping the club to the 1963 German-American Soccer League crown. The GASL was renamed the Cosmopolitan Soccer League in the 1970s.

He earned North American Soccer League rookie of the year honors with the Baltimore Bays in 1969. After the team folded after the season, Stritzl returned to play with the Gottschee senior team the next year.

When the Cosmos were created in 1971, Stritzl played for his “hometown team,” making 20 appearances and scoring three goals through the 1973 campaign. Stritzl was named an NASL first-team all-star in 1971. He helped the Cosmos capture the first of their eight NASL championships in 1972, while earning second-team all-star status.

Stritzl made his international debut and made 11 appearances for the USMNT, scoring twice before retiring from soccer – for club and country in 1973.