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George Best, Johan Cruyff, & The Los Angeles Aztecs

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George Best, Johan Cruyff, & The Los Angeles Aztecs


George Best, Johan Cruyff, & The Los Angeles Aztecs

The mid-to-late-seventies, well before the time of Robbie Keane, David Beckham, or Steven Gerrard, there was a star-studded revolution culminating in Los Angeles.

The beautiful weather and lure of Hollywood, along with the club winning the NASL title in their inaugural season would soon attract a big-name European contingent.

Though the stars would be bright in Los Angeles, the lack of stability in ownership and the inability to secure an adequate stadium would see the Aztecs have an incredibly brief history with very mixed success.

It was a sensational introduction to professional football for franchise when the club would win the league title in 1974- and founder Dr. Jack Gregory was looking to capitalize.

He would find success in his quest, convincing a musical star with a love for football to invest in his project and become co-owner of the Aztecs.

That man was none other than Watford owner, Elton John.

During that short, two-year regime, the Aztecs would go on to sign George Best when, though clearly not at his peak, George was only a couple of seasons removed from his spell with Manchester United.

Best came to the NASL in 1976, a year after Pele joined the New York Cosmos, and the two of them were clearly the biggest names to migrate to North America at the time.

Unlike the Brazilian superstar, Best’s presence in Los Angeles didn’t quite create the buzz on west coast that was erupting in New York for Pele and the Cosmos.

The combination of lacking excitement and support for the developing club, coupled with the lack of a permanent home with quality football facilities would see the Aztecs average under 10,000 spectators per match during Best’s two seasons in LA.

But this was a paltry figure when compared to the 34,000 the Cosmos were averaging during the same period.  At their peak, attendances at the old Giants Stadium in New Jersey would be as high as 70,000.

On the pitch, the Manchester United legend still had enough in his locker to dominate the recently founded American league. In 1976, Best would go on to net 15 goals in 23 matches, finishing the campaign tied for 6th on the NASL scoring list.

1977 would arguably be his best season during his stint in Los Angeles. Best would tie a league record for assists, accumulating at total of 18 that season, the bulk of those for team-mate and NASL scoring champ, Steve David.

But like at most of his stops after his time in Manchester, George would wear out his welcome with the Aztecs. In 1978 he started the season suspended without pay for his lack of professionalism.

He repeatedly missed practice, and when he did show up he was often hungover from the night before.

Due in large part to his alcoholism and the night-life in Hollywood, the 32-year-old Best would be shipped to NASL rival Fort Lauderdale Strikers in the summer of ’78.

By 1979, Elton John had gone as well. The new ownership group was in need of star power in an attempt to re-infuse the mercurial franchise.

To do so, the club would enlist Rinus Michels, the former manager of the Dutch national team, Ajax, and most recently at the time Barcelona.

The first thing Michels would do was seek out the services of a player he was very familiar with, the one and only Johan Cruyff.

With Cruyff following Michels out of the Camp Nou and heading towards Southern California, the Aztecs’ supporters were about to witness a real display of footballing genius.

Cruyff would take the league by storm in his debut season, scoring 13 goals on his way to picking up the NASL’s Most Valuable Player award.

But all was not well, the club would find itself in financial trouble and would be forced to change ownership once again. This time Mexican broadcasting company Televisa would take the helm.

With new ownership came major changes and one of those was to capitalize on Cruyff’s sensational season and sell him off to NASL opponent Washington Diplomats. A move that would prove the nature of the new ownership regime.

Investing in the club for what seemed to be exclusively financial gain the Aztec supporters would see their club fall to mediocrity.  With mediocrity came drastic drops in what were already low attendance figures.

The near 50% average drop in attendance would prove to be the final straw for the Tinsel Town based franchise. Televisa announced that they were folding the club and liquidating assets shortly after the 1981 season.

Though not as glamorous as one may expect a Los Angeles club to be, it’s important to look back at oft overlooked club with two of the brightest stars in football – Cruyff and Best – as pioneers.

Two players who took a gamble on a struggling franchise and briefly thrilled tiny crowds in Southern California. And boy were they lucky to have had them.

Match worn, player issue and match prepared soccer, GAA football ...

This was something I've been reading  about recently.

The USA football ('soccer' to them ) scene in the 1970s.

Suppose it seemed glamorous to me, as young football supporter back then.

Hope nobody minds me posting this thread.

Edited by erskblue

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Steve David with George Best.


For a forward, confidence in front of goal is absolutely crucial, and Trinidadian international Steve David had it in abundance during his career.

“Every time I entered the field, I thought I could score,” David told NASL.com. “I didn’t think there was any defender or goalkeeper that could stop me.”

And when it came to taking the pitch, David proved there were, in fact, few who could slow him down.

A prolific scorer since his debut season in the NASL with the Miami Toros in 1974, David finished his time in the NASL with 100 goals, sitting in seventh place in the Golden Era scoring charts.

“It’s what I expected of myself. If I didn’t score I didn’t let it bother me. If I went on a run of not scoring, I thought maybe I need to do more shooting or correct my mistakes in practice,” he said.

David was the league’s top scorer in 1975 with the Toros (also the league’s MVP) and again in 1977 with the Los Angeles Aztecs. The season with the Aztecs, though, stands out as particularly impressive.

Scoring just once in 13 games in his final year with the Toros in 1976, David was asked to play as a target striker and to hold up the ball, which didn’t suit his strengths. Heading to the West Coast with the Aztecs the following season, David’s goalscoring acumen was back on full display.

“It was a different style,” David said. “My last season in Miami, it was different. The midfielders wanted you to play with your back to the goal. I like to be running at players.

“When I came to L.A., I could do what I liked – running at players and running in positions I expected the ball to be.”

Getting a chance to play to utilize his quickness in space, David went on a run of 10 consecutive games finding the back of the net, starting on May 22 and coming to an end in a 2-0 shutout loss to the Toronto Metros-Croation on July 4. During that stretch, the forward tallied 14 goals.

David started the 1977 season on a much shorter streak, scoring in the first four games – all wins, although two of them came in a shootout – to set the tone for the year.

“When you go on a run of goals, it becomes easier and easier, and you get more opportunities even though teams are keeping an eye on you,” David said. “When the game comes to you, it’s always better, so you don’t have to force anything. You get in the zone, you play, and, when the time comes, you put them away.”

While starting the season in great form, David did not score for the next three games. When he found the back of the net twice in a 3-1 win against the Vancouver Whitecaps, it was the start of what would become the record streak, scoring in his next 10 appearances. The forward’s streak was never broken and only equaled once in 1981 by Canadian international Mike Stojanovic with the San Diego Sockers.

“I never thought it was a big deal,” David said. “Even when I was growing up, I scored in a lot of games.

“I didn’t think of it being a record or anything.”

The forward who scored 24 goals in 26 games in his first season in L.A. had plenty of help from his supporting cast. George Best had a league-best 18 assists, while David also benefitted from the midfield play of Charlie Cooke, who added 15 assists of his own over the course of the season.

“I had good players around me – Charlie Cooke, George Best, all of these players – and putting the ball in the net was easy for me at the time,” David said.

“He (George) gave me the ball in the right places. We really understood each other very well. I knew when he had the ball, as long as I found space, he’d get it to me. He made my job much easier, all I had to do was finish. Charlie was another excellent player. George was the key, though. He was the key to everything.”

Despite all the goals, it would ultimately finish in frustration for David and the Aztecs. Shortly before the end of the regular season, David picked up an injury in a match against the San Jose Earthquakes.

“Very frustrating for me during that period,” he said. ‘I got hit on the side of the knee by the goalkeeper, and it stretched the ligaments in my knee – didn’t tear it, just stretched it.

“The team couldn’t afford to lose me at that point because they were losing 26 goals in the season.”

Missing the rest of the regular season and ensuing postseason, the Aztecs – which led the league in goals with 65 – fell in the semifinals to the Seattle Sounders. David, with the confidence he surely had in front of goal, believes the Aztecs could have and should have been the team to play the New York Cosmos in the final that season – and that the Aztecs would have been crowned champions. The Sounders lost the final, 2-1.

“I think we were the best team in the league that year, including the Cosmos, even though they had Pelé,” David said.

“Injuries are part of the game, and we had to do the best we could.”

Looking back on it, it was still a memorable season for the Trinidadian international, and it was a season his goalscoring prowess was on full display as well as firing his way to streak that will continue to be tough to top.

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Football Memories on Twitter: "Charlie Cooke in action for Los ...Charlie Cooke - Players who went SeniorWhitecaps%2077%20Road%20Back%20Brian%20Bason,%20Aztecs%20(10)_small.jpgNASL-Charlie Cooke

Charlie Cooke with Los Angeles Aztecs,

He played for them during the summers of 1976,77 and 78.

Our former player, Brendon Bason is the no 14 of Vancover Whitecaps  being challenged by George Best

The No 6 in the last picture with Charlie Cooke. Is of course, Franz Beckenbauer, then of New York Cosmos


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When the NASL rocked America: Elton John, Jagger and the age of excitement

04 March 2016

Sensible business models? Pah! Two decades before MLS finally did it properly, soccer Stateside was run by rock stars, movie moguls and music execs. Oh, but it was fun...

This article gives some good background to NASL in the 1970s.

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George Best: Greatest NASL Goal Ever

George Best then of the San Jose Earthquakes, scored this fantastic goal against the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers on July 22, 1981 at Spartan Stadium in San Jose.
It's often called the greatest goal in NASL history.

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