Aztecs Bag NASL Opener

Glenn Parsons
Date Published: 
Pasadena Star-News

Seattle Bows, 2-1

For the present, at least, the Los Angeles Aztecs can say they have never been out of first place in the North American Soccer League's Western Division.

Forward Doug McMillan pumped in two first-half goals to lead the Aztecs to a 2-1 victory over the Seattle Sounders in their NASL debut Sunday before 4,107 fans in the East L.A. Stadium.

Vancouver lost to San Jose 2-1 in overtime in the other inter-divisional contest Sunday, giving the Aztecs an 8-5 total points advantage over San Jose in the Western standings.

"They say the first is always the hardest in Germany and we know it's true," an elated Aztec coach Alex Perolli said. "We played well today, but I think we were perhaps trying too hard to win. It is great that we won. Now we can start playing the good soccer I know we are capable of."

While everyone else on the field was fighting it out, Aztec goalie Kelvin Barclay did not have what could be considered a tough afternoon, at least in comparison to the workout his teammates handed Seattle goalie Barry Watling.

The Aztecs took a club-record 22 shots, six by Uri Banhoffer who also picked up assists on both McMillan goals, while the Sounders threatened only 14 times.

The first 10 minutes of the contest, played all too near Barclay and the Aztec goal, were not at all indicative of the entire game.

When they finally warmed up, the now-seasoned (thanks to a four-game preseason against Mexico's finest) Aztecs began to press their offensive attack.

"We played a 4-3-3 today, instead of the traditional 4-4-2," Perolli explained. "This gives our offense more strength, but still allows the three mid-fieldmen to get back on defense quickly. I was very pleased with the success we had with it."

So for the remainder of the NASL campaign, the Aztecs will play with three forwards, three midfieldmen and four defenders, along with goalie Barclay. This is the exploding, powerful offensive attack Perolli had promised on his arrival in L.A.

The first Aztec goal came 20 minutes into the game when Banhoffer lobbed a high kick towards McMillan, who was playing in front of the Sounder goal.

The English-born Los Angeles resident, headed the ball under the hands of the diving Watling from five yards out for the score.

Los Angeles threatened again with only 5:30 left in the first half, as the Aztecs drew Watling out of the net and McMillan kicked the ball towards the net, only to have it stopped by Seattle defender Dave Gillett.

Instead, it was the Sounders who scored next, as forward Pepe Fernandez drew Barclay to the left side of the net, then kicked the ball across the front of the goal to John Rowlands, who headed it in to make it 1-1.

McMillan scored the winning goal with 3:10 left in the first half when he dribbled the ball past the Sounder defense, drew Watling out from the net and drilled it by him.

The Aztecs will host the Dallas Tornadoes, 1-1 this far, and Superstar champion Kyle Rote, Jr., Sunday at 3 p.,. in the East L.A. Stadium in their second NASL contest.