Aztecs Open Soccer Play With Seattle

Glenn Parsons
Date Published: 
Pasadena Star-News

So far so good.

The Los Angeles Aztecs have returned professional soccer to the Southland with a successful four-game preseason by posting a 2-2 record against Mexico's top pro teams and attracting an average of almost 10,000 fans each game.

Now it's down to the nitty gritty, so to speak.

Seattle's Sounders will invade the East Los Angeles Stadium for a 3 p.m. game today as the Aztecs initiate their first season of North American Soccer League competition.

No one is about to begrudge the Aztecs their preseason success, but there are still a number of questions to be answered before it can be determined whether or not Aztec owner Dr. Jack Gregory has hit upon enough paydirt to warrant a permanent headquarters in L.A.

The biggest concern will not be decided by the squad's position in the final standings, although there is little doubt a winner will be taken to the hearts of the public a bit quicker than a loser might be.

Instead, the Aztec's success rests on attendance figures for those contests played against other American clubs. In other words, did the majority of the fans who attended preseason games come to see Mexico's finest . . . or did they come to see the Aztecs?

And if they did indeed come to watch the pros from south of the border, did they like what they saw of the Aztecs, who even managed to win .500 per cent of the contests?

All this will be answered in part when the Aztecs host the Sounders this afternoon.

And Los Angeles coach Alex Perolli, known throughout the world as the "magician" for his ability to mold winning teams quickly wherever he goes, figures his squad is ready to give the crowds something to cheer for.

"I was pleased with the way we played against the Mexican teams," he commented. "We were very much in the two games we lost.

"We wanted to play these games for experience and I think we are a much sounder and stronger team for it. We have been gradually getting into condition and coming together as a team and these four preseason games benefited these causes very much."

For the record, the Aztecs defeated Monterrey, the current Mexican champion, 2-1 and Atlante 1-0, before losing to Club America 2-1 and Universidad 3-1 the past two weeks.

Forwards Uri Banhoffer of Uruguay and Jerry Kazarian, a product of Soviet Union soccer who has been playing in Montebello, have scored two goals apiece to lead the Aztec front line attack, while Tony Douglas, one of four Trinidad World Cup finals players, score the other L.A. goal. Goalie Kelvin Barclay, another Trinidad national, has registered 40 saves in the first four games.

The Sounders, on the other hand, have been together only a week and have not played a game as yet. Their first-year coach, John Best, led last year's league scoring leader, Kyle Rote Jr., from his midfield position with the Dallas Tornado.

"I'm not worried about our team's conditioning," he ventured, "but Los Angeles has to rate an edge against us in the league opener due to their four solid international games. The only problem we may have is molding uniformity."

And the only problem the Aztecs may have is forming a successful athletic franchise in terms of dollars and cents. Perolli and his players have a solid chance of taking care of the winning end of things.