Aztecs Make NASL Bow Today At ELA

Glenn Parsons
Date Published: 
Pasadena Star-News

With a potpourri of players, many of whom might be found on a team of international all-stars, and a coach of 26 years and championship teams in Mexico, Italy and Rochester (New York), the Los Angeles Aztecs are prepared to take the field at East Los Angeles CC Stadium today at 3 p.m.

The Alhambra-based Aztecs, the North American Soccer League's most recent addition, will make their debut against Monterrey, Mexico's number one professional soccer team.

That may seem like a tough way for a team that has been together only five weeks to begin life, but coach Alex Perolli, whose tutoring abiilities have earned international respect, has things well in hand.

"We are not looking to just play the game," the 53-year-old native of Albania said. "Monterrey has some tremendous people, but we feel that our players are competitive. We have the talent to keep up with them. This is the best way possible for us to get ready for the NASL season."

And with the acquisition of Perolli, managing general partner Dr. Jack Gregory, who stepped down from president to chairman of the board of Alhambra's Empire Equities Inc., left no doubt as to his intentions of getting "ready for the NASL season."

For the record, the Aztecs are not the first professional soccer players to take up residence in Los Angeles. The Toros of the NASL were here for 1967, while Jack Kent Cooke's Wolves of the National Professional Soccer League (which merged with the NASL in 1968) lasted from 1967 to '68.

One good reason for the success of the Aztecs, in place of their predecessor's failures, is the strong development of the American Youth Soccer Organization.

Founded in 1964, the AYSO field only 16 teams in 1967 when only 20 high schools choose to
field teams. Now, however, there are 1,762 AYSO teams, including 229 girls teams, and 154 high school squads.

Even though most of the Aztec roster is comprised of international players (four must be of U.S. citizenship by NASL bylaws), club officials are counting on American players making up the large part of the Aztec squad in the near future.

"Los Angeles has a great potential for soccer," Perolli ventured. "We plan to develop a number of reserve and junior teams for the promotion and the development of our team. We want native players because those are the athletes the fans really associate with."

But for now, the Aztecs are just going to have to be contented with a squad comprised of some of the top international soccer stars and the good fortune of a schedule which brings the Dallas Tornadoes — and Kyle Rote Jr. — to town May 12.

In case anyone missed it, Kyle Rote Jr., the league's rookie of the year in 1973, won the 1974 "Superstars" competition.

But back to the Aztecs.

The preseason schedule consists of home games with Monterrey, Atlante (Apr. 14), America (April 21) and Universidad (Apr. 28), all first division Mexican teams.

"The NASL has proved it can play against the best soccer teams in the world and we are going to take advantage of this by planning international games when we can," said Perolli, who should know as well as anyone. "When I was coaching at Monterrey in 1967 we lost to some NASL teams on a U.S. tour."

The Aztecs begin their league season at home on May 5 against Seattle and play 10 of their 25 NASL games in the East L.A. Stadium.

And Aztec management, led by Gregory and Perolli, have put together a squad befitting their competitive schedule.

The international stars include Kelvin Barclay, goalie of the Trinidad national team, and three of his teammates; and Argentines forward Hector Bentron, midfielder Miguel Ferrari, and defenders Ricardo DeRienzo and Mario Zanotti.

Bentron and Ferrari played for Velez Sarfield of Buenos Aires, the top Argentine pro team, last year.

Also signed by the Aztecs is Brazil's Iris DeBrito, a former teammate of Pele, acknowledged as the world's top player.

Among locals signed for the upcoming campaign are UCLA's Jose Lopez and Greater L.A. Soccer Club star forward Jerry Kazarian of Montebello.

Kazarian will be on the starting forward line along with Uri Banhoffer and Leo Brewster, while Pedro Martinez, Tony Douglas and Renato Costa will stalk the midfield. Sergio Martinez, Ramon Moraldo and Ricardo DeRienzo start on defense and Barclay will be the goalie.

Aztec Schedule

Apr 7 - Monterrey*
Apr 14 - Atlante*
Apr 21 - America*
Apr 28 - Universidad*
May 5 - Seattle
May 12 - Dallas
May 19 - St. Louis
May 26 - at St. Louis
May 25 - Vancouver
June 2 - Miami
June 5 - at Houston
June 9 - at Rochester
June 16 - San Jose
June 21 - New York
June 29 - at Philadelphia
July 3 - at Baltimore
July 6 - at Dallas
July 14 - Denver
July 21 - Toronto
July 26 - at Seattle
July 23 - at Vancouver
Aug 4 - Washington
Aug 7 - at Denver
Aug 10 - at San Jose
*preseason games, all games 3 p.m.