Toye story

Clive Toye courtesy Toronto Public Library

This came out a couple of weeks ago, and I missed it until now.

You know I’m an NASLophile, and though I’ve been told it’s a bit disappointing, I’m looking forward to reading Clive Toye’s book, A Kick in the Grass 1The rat stole the title I was going to use for a book I’ll never write about the Tampa Bay Rowdies. The longtime league exec gave an interesting interview to in which he discusses the state of MLS and American soccer in general. (Toye was also prominent in last year’s excellent Once in a Lifetime.)

One quote that jumped out at me right away was this:

“USSoccerPlayers: Do you think that MLS had adequately acknowledged the contribution that the NASL made to the growth of American soccer?

Toye: MLS has signally and deliberately ignored the fact that the NASL ever existed. Without the NASL, soccer in the USA would have remained as we found it in 1967.”

Yep. Just because the NASL folded and you wanted to distance yourself from their mistakes at launch in 1996 didn’t mean you had to ignore their successes as well (and many of the “soccer people” who were still around and willing and able to help at the time). Now MLS probably feels like because they’ve been around a dozen years and are likely to be around much longer than the NASL’s 17 seasons, they don’t need to acknowledge those who came before in any sort of meaningful way.

In a somewhat related story (and one more recent), ESPN’s Kristian Dyer has this look at the legacy of the Cosmos. While it plays a bit too much into this whole Cosmos-as-Utopia nostalgia binge that is all too prevalent, it’s interesting. Some points, though:

  • Dyer says: “More then (sic) 20 years removed from the NASL’s (North American Soccer League) collapse, the New York Cosmos are arguably the most famous club in the world.” —This is, of course, rubbish.
  • MLS president Mark Abbott said “We’ve done a number of things to embrace the NASL. Our teams have done a lot of tributes. There has been quite a bit of acknowledgement from the teams and the league.” —I disagree. I know the Fire have done two nights (one in 2001, one last year) honoring the Chicago Sting, the then-MetroStars and Mutiny wore throwback-like kits in a game years ago and the Mutiny had a Rowdies reunion before they went under, but I don’t recall much else. When the Rapids break out the Colorado Caribous’ fringed jerseys, let me know.
  • Giorgio Chinaglia, the NASL’s all-time leading scorer, said, “What do they [MLS] know? Most of them never even played the game.” — That’s just Giorgio being Giorgio. When the boot was on the other foot and he was running the Cosmos, he ran them into bankruptcy.
  • Abbott again: “I don’t think the league would be opposed to naming a new team the Cosmos.”—They should be. Here’s the argument I’ve had with people at Bigsoccer for years: You can call a new MLS team the Cosmos. You can make them look like the Cosmos. You can put them in all-white kits and bring back the badge and all that, and it would be a nice homage. But they won’t be the Cosmos. An MLS team can never be what the Cosmos were, and any attempt to pass it off as the Cosmos (or even their direct descendants) would be laughable. They were more than a name – they were lightning in a bottle. It can’t be recaptured.

I loved the NASL; it was my introduction to the game. I miss the old Rowdies. But I miss my dog, Sam, too, and she’s not coming back, either. The notion that we can turn back the clock for more than an afternoon is a quaint one, but silly.

Kenn Tomasch

Kenn Tomasch

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