Last week, the Canadian Soccer Hall of Fame and Museum announced that the Vancouver Whitecaps side that won the 1979 North American Soccer League (NASL) Soccer Bowl championship will be inducted as this year's Team of Distinction.
The Whitecaps famously defeated the Tampa Bay Rowdies at Giants Stadium to claim the 1979 Soccer Bowl title. The squad returned home to a parade of more than 100,000 exuberant fans that congratulated the team on Robson Street in downtown Vancouver.
“It was a true honour to be a part of that great team,” said Carl Valentine, now club ambassador and staff coach with Whitecaps FC. “We weren’t the most skilled team in the NASL, but we had character in abundance and we could play with the best when called upon.”
Tony Waiters coached a roster that included the likes of John Craven - who was team captain - and English legend Alan Ball. Phil Parkes manned the net behind other international players such as Roger Kenyon, Ray Lewington, Willie Johnston, Trevor Whymark, and Kevin Hector. Bob Lenarduzzi, Buzz Parsons, and Bob Bolitho were among the Canadian contingent. “I think we were feared throughout the league,” remembered Valentine. “Just ask the New York Cosmos.”
The ‘Caps met the Cosmos in the NASL playoffs that season en route to their Soccer Bowl appearance, and many remember the second-leg meeting as one of the greatest matches in NASL history.
After a 2-0 victory at home, Waiters’ squad travelled to East Rutherford, New Jersey, to play in front of more than 45,000 Cosmos supporters. New York eventually won the match in a shootout to send the series to a deciding “mini-game”. After 135 minutes of action, Vancouver triumphed in a second shootout to earn a return trip to Giants Stadium, where they would achieve Soccer Bowl glory on September 8, 1979.
The Canadian Soccer Hall of Fame and Museum induction class for 2011 also includes former Toronto Blizzard players Jimmy Nichol and Victor Kodelja, as well as former Canadian internationals Nick Dasovic and Lyndon Hooper. Bill Hoyle, Rupert Goldberger, Len Peto, and Toronto Ulster United will also be honoured at the Induction Banquet in Toronto, Ontario, on May 28.