Soccer top-scorer Chinaglia transforms boos into cheers
East Rutherford, N.J.
If Giorgio Chinaglia (Keen-AL-ya) could have imagined scoring the ideal goal for his record-breaking 102d in the North American Soccer League, it could not have been better than the one he actually did score May 18 in Anaheim Stadium, California.
With his back to California's goal, the Cosmos striker trapped a pass from wing Angelo DiBernardo just inside the penalty area. He gracefully lifted the ball over defender Andy McBride with his left foot, spun to his left, and as the ball hit the ground he booted it with his right foot past the onrushing goalie and into the cage.
With the goal, he became the NASL's all- time leading scorer, breaking the record of 101 goals held by Ilija Mitic, a Yugoslav who played 166 games in his nine-year NASL career before retiring in 1978. Mitic and Phil Woosnam, the league commissioner, presented Chinaglia with the game ball in a brief ceremony. The Cosmos went on to win the match, 4-1, as Chinaglia notched one more goal in his 109th league game, almost exactly four years after he began his American soccer career in Yankee Stadium.
The 33-year old Italian native has made his living, now quite a prosperous one, scoring soccer goals since he was 15 years old. He learned the game in Cardiff, Wales, where he grew up. He went on to play six years for Lazio of Rome, which he led to a national championship in 1974.
Always outspoken and volatile, the controversial Chinaglia, Italy's highest paid soccer player, stunned and alienated the fans of his native land when he came to New York to join the Cosmos in 1976.
"Soccer players are professional and go where they are best treated," Chinaglia said about the defection. "The level of play in the NASL is as excellent as anywhere in the world, and what's happened to soccer all over the US in the last three or four years is beautiful. Everybody is playing it."