Three years ago, former New York Cosmos star, Randy Horton, was interviewed by Dr. David Kilpatrick. The two discussed the early years of the club and the NASL. As the team travels to Bermuda, home to Horton, we look back at the prominent career of the Cosmos first ever goal scorer in “Conversation: The Building Blocks.”
Randy Horton joined the Cosmos in the club’s inaugural season while an international student from Bermuda at Rutgers. The towering striker scored the first goal in the club’s history, a sign of things to come, as he quickly rose to prominence, named the NASL Rookie of the Year and first-team all-star in 1971 before earning league MVP honors the next year as the Cosmos won their first NASL title. Horton recently took time from his current position as Speaker of the House of Assembly in Bermuda to reflect upon the birth of the Cosmos.
Dr. David Kilpatrick (DK): What do you remember about that first year? Any particular games from the first season that really stand out?
Randy Horton (RH): Obviously, the first game in St. Louis and scoring that first goal. I can see that goal right now. I can remember it perfectly because it was a free kick taken by [Kyriakos] Fitilis, the tall Greek midfielder [then an Astoria Queens resident]. He played the free kick in and I went up to head the ball. Steve Frank was the center back for St. Louis. I remember that goal, no question about it. I can see where the free kick came from. I can see me, where I ran from, Steve Frank running with me, and me out-jumping him. I climbed above him and boom, in the back of the net. I remember it clearly.
More than anything else, it was just great going out as a team in the first match that we were playing in the NASL. I remember that clearly. Of course, I would have to, since it was the first ever Cosmos goal and my first goal ever playing with the Cosmos.
DK: You faced a lot of criticism that year, didn’t you?
RH: Me? Yeah. I think sometimes it was tough. I think that the people that were watching had high expectations of the Cosmos and I don’t remember it that much because all the time people were complaining or not liking what I was doing. I tried to just let it go away.
DK: Seems like it was what we’d call today "Eurosnobs."
RH : It was a bit of that, yeah. For instance, the American players weren’t looked on in a very positive way. And one of the things I tried to do was to give good support to the young American players who were coming through the ranks and joining the team. We had American guys like Stan Startzell, Joey Fink, Len Renery and Werner [Roth], of course.
The other thing about Yankee Stadium was the people were so far away from you. The field was there and the fans were like a mile away from you. It wasn’t a great atmosphere playing at Yankee Stadium that first year.
DK: Obviously this was before the reconstruction of the stadium.
RH : That’s right, we were playing in the old Yankee Stadium.
DK: Probably the locker rooms weren’t all that nice, either.
RH : No, not at all. Hofstra was okay -- it was lean. There was nothing plush about Hofstra, that’s for sure, but it was okay.
DK: Remember anything about the game played out at Hofstra before the first season started at Yankee Stadium?
RH : I remember the game but I can’t remember too much about it. It was before the regular season started, a practice game against a college all-star team, but I really don’t remember that game.
DK: That team really gelled.
RH : I think we had a nice combination of players, a nice mixture of players, and we just seemed to hit it off. We got together quite a lot. Kind of like after games, we went to the Meadowbrook Lounge. It was good chemistry between the team.
DK: How would you describe the team tactically?
RH : We had a mixture of players. We had Guys like Jorge Siega, who was absolutely fantastic. A left winger who I loved because nobody put the ball across as well as he did. He was from Brazil. And then of course we had the British influence. I think you could certainly say we played with a British style, with the big target man up front -- that was me. And I had quite a bit of success doing that in the league.
DK: Winning the Northern Division that year, did it seem you kind of steamrolled to the title?
RH : I think when we looked at the team and the players they brought in like Josef Jelinek and Johnny Kerr, in the middle of the park we had some real solid midfield play, in terms of helping construct attacks going forward. I think we had a well-balanced team, with a lot of British and a little bit of South American flair.
DK: It’s interesting how cosmopolitan the mix was.
RH : Oh yeah, we had the United Nations.
DK: In terms of that internationalism, you had a couple of interesting friendlies that first year at Hofstra.
RH : Yeah, we played Maccabi Tel Aviv. We beat them 5-2. That was right before you started the playoffs.
DK: Was there some concern about injuries? You and [goalkeeper] Richard Blackmore only played the first half.
RH : No, not really … it’s no different from training, really. When you’re preparing for the championship, you want to be in good match fitness and that kind of helps.
DK: So playing Tel Aviv was a help going into the playoffs?
RH : Yes. I remember I scored a hat trick in the game.
DK: Remember anything about the championship game itself?
RH : Nothing other than we were the better team. I remember I scored the first goal, then they equalized, but Josef Jelinek scored the winning goal from a penalty. What I do remember is that we had good control of the match. We deservingly won the match.
I think we went over to the Meadowbrook Lounge after celebrating in the dressing room. That was our place and fans used to come there as well. We had a great fanbase at Hofstra.
DK: Do you remember anything about that Dynamo Moscow friendly?
RH : I remember the goalkeeper was the world’s best goalkeeper: Yashin. But I can’t remember too much about the game. I was just excited, because I was playing against the world’s greatest goalkeeper. The players were keen on testing their skills against a team known as among the best in the world.
DK: Was it like a victory parade?
RH : I wouldn’t say it was a victory parade. But it was certainly a good way to celebrate the championship, by showcasing yourself against a top team. Scoring against one of the world’s greatest goalkeepers feels good, too.
DK: Was that game a statement of intent by the Cosmos to establish the club on the world stage?
RH : If that was not particularly the intention, I don’t think it got in the way. It would certainly have assisted in getting the Cosmos name out there in the world.
DK: What was your best moment with the Cosmos?
RH : Winning the championship. For me, the greatest thing that happened to me was being selected [as] the most valuable player in the league because the players selected the MVP and none of the players on your team could vote for you, so it was all the players on the other teams that voted you for MVP; that gave me great satisfaction. It was the greatest honor that came to me and it's really humbling to think that the guys you played against think that about you.
DK: In ’75 you went to the Washington Diplomats, and then finished your career in Hartford with the Bicentennials in ‘76. How did it feel watching the Cosmos grow from the outside?
RH : It was good because it was growing. It was progressing and one likes to see progression and that’s exactly what took place. It was great to see, and having been a part of the original Cosmos, you always felt that you were a part of the building blocks.