Cruyff vs. Whitecaps

'One of the best:' Lenarduzzi, 'Caps mourn the passing of Dutch legend Johan Cruyff

Earlier today, the world lost a soccer legend.

Dutch soccer great Johan Cruyff has passed away after battle with lung cancer, his website confirmed today. Many consider Cruyff to be one of the greatest footballers of all time.

And Whitecaps FC president Bob Lenarduzzi is one of them.

He would know.

Lenarduzzi played against Cruyff and his Los Angeles Aztecs on Vancouver’s memorable run to the 1979 NASL Soccer Bowl championship. In the first leg of the conference semifinal, LA came back to defeat the ‘Caps 3-2 at the Los Angeles Memorial Stadium – thanks in part to a wonder goal by Cruyff in the penalty shootout (which, at the time, allowed players to dribble into the box).

“He was on the 35-yard line and he flipped the ball up in the air, then just juggled it into the 18-yard box,” Lenarduzzi recalled. “It froze our keeper and Johan just kept going and volleyed it in. It was a fantastic goal.”

Cruyff spent over a decade in Europe with Ajax and Barcelona before making the move to North America. He’s credited by many for reinventing modern soccer with moves such as “The Cruyff Turn,” first used during the 1974 World Cup (see video below).

“Very, very skillful, but he also had a great change of pace,” Lenarduzzi said of Cruyff. “He could beat you with trickery, but he could also beat you with lulling you into a false sense of security. He was a fantastic player. I would put him in the category as one of the best players who’s ever played the game.”