Remembering Cosmos Defender Dan Canter

Apr 20, 2020

Former New York Cosmos defender Dan Canter recently passed away.

He was 58.

Canter, who played for the U.S. national team, performed for the Cosmos indoor and outdoor teams died at his home in Las Vegas on April 9.

He grew up as a Cosmos fan. He was born in North Plainfield, N.J. and raised in Chatham Township, which is about a half hour from Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.

"Watching the Cosmos has certainly helped me," Canter told The New York Times in 1984.

"It wasn't long ago we'd play our club game on Sunday morning and all pile into a station wagon to go the Cosmos game in the afternoon," Canter was quoted by the Daily Record that same year. "So naturally it's been my No. 1 goal as a player to play here. It's perfect."

"First it was Carlos Alberto and Franz Beckenbauer, then I watched the magic of Bogie [Vladislav Bogicevic]. "I used to come and watch with the kids on my team from Chatham Township. We all had the same dream. It looks like mine came true.

Born on Nov. 16, 1981, Canter came into national prominence as a center back during a four-year career at Penn State University. He helped the Nittany Lions to four consecutive NCAA tournament appearances. That included a trip to the Final Four in 1979 as PSU lost to eventual champion SIU Edwardsville in the semifinals, 2-1. The Lions defeated Columbia University by the same score in the third-place match. He earned All American honors in 1981.

Canter was chosen by the Fort Lauderdale Strikers in the 1982 North American Soccer League draft, before joining the ill-fated Team America in 1983. Team America was supposed to bring the best American players in the league together, essentially the U.S. national team playing together as a team for a season. Canter was one of those players who took the plunge, but many opted out of the experiment.

In 1984, Canter joined the Cosmos. He played for the indoor (Major Indoor Soccer League) and outdoor squads through the 1985 season, making 14 and 27 appearances, respectively. He also scored nine times for the indoor squad.

When the Cosmos acquired Canter, head coach Eddie Firmani said: “In my opinion, he’s the best American defender in soccer. He’s a terrific man-to-man marker, never gets flustered and reads the game very well.”

During a Cosmos alumni game that season, Canter played against the legends of the team, including Pele, at Giants Stadium. The alumni won, 6-2.

"Just standing there for the national anthem and having Pele on one side of me, I was kind of wondering what I was doing out there," Canter was quoted by the Bergen Record.

He wound up marking the Brazilian great. "It was difficult at first because you didn't know how to approach the game,” Canter said. "You didn't want to go in too hard on tackles, but on the other hand, you didn't want to look stupid. And you don't want to hurt Pele, or you'll get mugged by 32,000 fans."

Canter moved onto Chicago Sting for the remainder of the 1984-85 MISL campaign before finishing his career competing for the Minnesota Strikers indoor team from 1985-87.

During that time, Canter forged a reputation as one of the top USA defenders as he earned nine caps from 1983-85, during a time in which U.S. international games were few and far between.

Canter and another Cosmos, Jeff Durgan, formed a solid pairing in the middle of the defense in the USA's scoreless draw against Italy in 1984. He compared the magnitude of the tie with the Americans' 1-0 win over England in the 1950 World Cup."

My coach at Penn State played against England in that game," Canter told The Times about the late Walter Bahr, "and he said the result with Italy was just as important for American soccer. I think you'll see real improvement soon. I'm one of the players they said represent the future of soccer."

He was named to the 1984 U.S. Olympic team, but one day later, he severely twisted an ankle in a Cosmos game against Tulsa and did not play in the Los Angeles Summer Games."I've played for three years and never had anything major go wrong," Canter told The Los Angeles Times at the time.

"Now, in the last game before the Olympics, this happens. I'm trying not to think about it, but whenever I turn on the television they have something about the Olympics."

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