The 1979 Los Angeles Aztecs of the NASL. In the center is captain Johan Cruyff, whose journey to America is told by Leander Schaerlaeckens in issue one of XI.
In the late 1970s Johan Cruyff came to America, playing two exhibition games for the New York Cosmos and then in three tumultuous NASL seasons for the Los Angeles Aztecs and Washington Diplomats that helped shape the Dutch legend’s future.
In issue one of XI, Pieter van Os and Leander Schaerlaeckens tell that story in full for the first time in English:
Legendarily hubristic, cocksure, singularly combative and ruthless, Cruyff was forever embroiled in power struggles or embarking on ideological crusades. If his talent for manipulating a ball and orchestrating an offense was immense, it was (and is) dwarfed by his capacity for inciting conflict and playing mind games.
But the Dips didn’t know any of that yet. In 1980, all they knew was that they’d landed the player considered one of the greatest of all time for his second season in the now-defunct North American Soccer League.
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In issue #1 of XI Quarterly, Leander Schaerlaeckens and Pieter van Os explore Johan Cruyff’s years playing in the United States.
Their article shows how the time that the Dutch legend spent in the NASL formed the man that we know today as Johan Cruyff, as Schaerlaeckens discusses here.
A Dutch native, Leander Schaerlaeckens lives in New York and has written about soccer for such publications as ESPN The Magazine, ESPN.com, the Guardian and World Soccer. He has a one-sided love-hate relationship with Johan Cruyff.
A Trinidad & Tobago international, Steve David enjoyed a rather remarkable career in the North American Soccer League, playing for six teams in seven years, scoring 95 goals in 175 games for the Miami Toros, Los Angeles Aztecs, Detroit Express, California Surf, San Diego Sockers and San Jose Earthquakes between 1974 and 1981. He then ended his club career with three seasons in the Major Indoor Soccer League.