Philly Soccer History - 1978

The ‘70s : 1978

On paper, the Fury looked to be a formidable lot, particularly playing in the NASL’s American Soccer Conference, made up primarily of expansion teams and also-rans. Unfortunately for Philadelphia, however, its Eastern Division included both the Tampa Bay Rowdies and the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers, two of the better teams in the league.

Off the field, the Fury tried to generate the same excitement that had greeted the Atoms five years earlier. An ambitious advertising campaign included a clever commercial featuring Peter Osgood juggling a soccer ball across the Walt Whitman Bridge while being followed by herd of young kids, all to the tune of Mike Oldfield’s “Tubular Bells.” The catchy Fury logo could be seen everywhere, and local stores carried Fury merchandise.

Against this backdrop, the Fury began the 1978 season on April 1, playing against Washington in Veterans Stadium before 18,191. Unfortunately, the team was thrashed, 3-0. Still, many familiar faces could be seen on the field, including Miller, Straub, and, as a substitute, Trevis. Including Cryder (who was drafted by the Atoms, but never played for them), the team played four ex-Atoms.

Unfortunately, fans were somewhat confused by the product on the field. For months, Philly fans had been told of the abilities of Alan Ball, Johnny Giles, and Keith MacRae. However, all three were delayed in reporting to Philadelphia, as they were finishing their English seasons. As a result, fans’ first impression of the new team was one of being somewhat cheated.

Another problem for the Fury was the fact that Peter Osgood, for all of the hype, turned out to be a complete bust. Touted as a goalscorer, Osgood did not register a tally until the team’s seventh match, and that remained his only goal through 22 games.

Still, some of the old magic returned in the Fury’s second match, which saw Derek Trevis score a “golden goal” in a 3-2 win over Memphis.

As the season progressed, Philadelphia’s big name players started to trickle in. Ball and MacRae debuted in the team’s fifth match, with Ball scoring two goals. By the time Giles arrived in late May, however, the team was an unimpressive 5-5, and mired in the Eastern Division basement.

By June, Dinnis had been fired as coach, and was replaced by Ball. The change did not help much; like their immediate predecessors, the Fury could not put the ball in the back of the net. One player who did generate some excitement was Pat Fidelia, who led the team in goals with eight, seven of which came as a substitute. Fans also embraced the scrappy play of Fran O’Brien and John Dempsey, two players who would have fit right in with the Atoms’ “No Goal Patrol” of five seasons earlier.

Thanks to the NASL’s insane point system, the Fury advanced to the playoffs in spite of finishing in last place in the American Soccer Conference Eastern Division with a 12-18 record. Philadelphia made a quick exit, however, losing to Detroit 1-0 thanks to a Trevor Francis goal.

Never capturing the hearts of Philadelphians the way the Atoms had, the Fury averaged 8,279 per match. However, given the league’s growth in the last few years, this placed the team a dismal 18th out of 24 teams.