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Know your Cosmos' history: The forgotten 1972 NASL Championship

Did you know the Cosmos won an NASL title before Pele, Carlos Alberto, and the rest of the stars came? This is their story.

Chris Brunskill

At this point in their history, the Cosmos have been around for a year. They finished their first season in existence at 9-10-5, not the sort of record which New York fans generally expect. To put this all in context, Watergate is just beginning to unravel. We haven't heard of Son of Sam yet, On the other side of the world, the "Troubles" in Northern Ireland are in their infancy. So the world is very different place, from where we will be when Pele, Alberto, Franz, Chingalla, and Shep show up later.

The 1972 season, the second in the club's existence, saw the Cosmos defeat the St. Louis Stars in the championship match, winning the first of their six titles.The manager, Gordon Bradley is still playing. This is all before they club began to play at old Yankee Stadium, or set attendance records at Giants Stadium. They were still playing in their original home at Hofstra, ironically where they are now.

New York's first real star is Randy Horton, a forward from Bermuda. He would never score more than nine goals for the Cosmos in a season while he was with the club (1971-74), before making way for the global stars coming in. Along the back line was Werner Roth, who got to see the arrival of the big names, and the titles in the late 70's. Randy was the league MVP and top scorer having nine goals in 22 matches. He added another two in the postseason.

St. Louis has a massive history in the sport, there's always been some connection to the city on the US National team. Looking as far back as the 1950 US Men's National Team, five of the eleven players on that squad were from the St. Louis area, including the manager. The Stars were a popular draw in the 70's, leading the NASL in attendance in 1972 with just over 8,000 fans per game.

St. Louis won the Southern Division with 69 points, while the Cosmos had won the Northeast Division with 77. New York had the highest point total in the NASL so they were guaranteed home field throughout the playoffs.  The Stars beat the Rochester Lancers 2-0 to advance into the final, whereas the Cosmos defeated defending champion Dallas Tornado at home 1-0 in order to advance.

In the final, the Cosmos took an early lead on a Randy Horton goal in the fifth minute, before the Stars ran down the field as player/coach Casey Frankiewicz scored on a controversial goal. It was ruled offside at first by Roger Schott, but after a conference with his officials he ruled it a goal. The Cosmos took the lead in for good with four minutes to go with a penalty kick from Josef Jelink, and lifted the first of their six titles in front of the Hofstra crowd.