Did you know that Aston Villa legend Peter Withe spent one season in the NASL, playing in the inaugural season of the Portland Timbers? He wasn’t alone. Long before the MLS began to be eyed as a cushy retirement gig by international stars, American soccer was seen as a perfect summer job for European and South American pros.
Ian Plenderleith tells the whole story, with lots of great interviews from the players themselves, in Rock ‘n’ Roll Soccer: The Short Life and Fast Times of the North American Soccer League. He also makes a surprisingly strong case that the NASL was ahead of its time. (Other fascinating tidbits include the fact that former Villa forward Phil Woosnam was the NASL commissioner from 1969–1984, and that, in 1968, talks were underway for Villa to be bought by a U.S. team, the Atlanta Chiefs.)
It may come as a surprise that writing a blog about being an American fan of English soccer is not a full-time job, and I am forced to pay the bills by working as an editor at a book-review journal. The good news, though, is that I get to review the soccer books, this one included. From my Booklist review:
Breaking from the common view that the original North American Soccer League (NASL) was a gaudy, failed experiment, soccer journalist Plenderleith posits that, although it may have been a product of the “brash, loud, and shameless ’70s,” its focus on entertainment and innovation made it “the league of the future.”
Click here to read the whole thing.