During a locker room celebration after a World Cup qualifying win over Canada on 20 October 1976, Miro Rys couldn’t have been extra elated. The 19-year-old striker not solely scored the opener of the US’s 2-0 triumph but additionally his first worldwide purpose.

“I’ve obtained the ball proper right here,” Rys proudly instructed reporters. “I’m going to take it residence and grasp it on the wall. I predicted earlier than the sport I’d rating, however after I scored, I felt unimaginable.”

Rys by no means had a possibility to attain his second worldwide purpose. He was lifeless lower than a 12 months later. This month marks the forty fourth anniversary of Rys’ passing.

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We’ll by no means know what Rys might have achieved for membership (Chicago Sting and Los Angeles Aztecs) and nation. He was the primary American teenager to attain targets within the North American Soccer League.

“He was a particular expertise,” his USMNT teammate, defender Jim Pollihan mentioned. “He would have been one of many prime American gamers, most likely the highest American participant in a 12 months or two, had he not handed. Popping out of highschool and going proper to the professionals is clearly an enormous step. However to do this and get on the sphere and rating targets, the US at the moment didn’t have an entire lot of gamers that had the power to attain. That was a priority once we have been taking part in qualifying video games.”

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Although Rys performed solely three matches for the US, the crew’s supervisor, Walt Chyzowych, gave the budding star a particular tribute, dedicating his 1982 ebook, The World Cup, to a “younger participant of brilliance minimize down tragically in his prime”.

“It was completely unhappy,” mentioned Willy Roy, who was the Sting assistant supervisor on the time. “Everyone was on the lookout for a child that that’s going to make it. He was not able to play on the primary crew.

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“We’re not speaking about Pele. He was a great child, lovable child below the mistaken circumstances. We now have to take a look at issues, similar as [Christian] Pulisic. All of the stress, all the cash, all of the stuff that’s going round. They’re superb gamers in the best scenario, however they’re not superstars.”

Others felt in any other case.

“He was simply so athletically gifted,” former Sting normal supervisor Jim Walker mentioned. “Had a extremely good shot. He was left-footed, and he was quick. He was very fast and really aggressive and performed a bit headier than you’d have anticipated an adolescent to do.”

Sting supervisor Invoice Foulkes, a survivor of Manchester United’s 1958 airplane crash, instructed me in Could 1976 that he anticipated Rys to be an everyday by the top of the season.

“I can’t see how he can fail as a star,” Foulkes mentioned. “There aren’t many issues mistaken about him. He has a cannon-like shot and an incredible want. He’s very fast and mature for his age.”

Rys’ father, Miroslav, butted heads with Foulkes. “Foulkes was type of a hard-minded man and Miro’s father was very robust minded,” Walker mentioned. “They knocked heads a bit bit on what Miro’s future must be. We had Miro go to Manchester United and work. Miro’s father wasn’t pleased with that.”

Born in Czechoslovakia on 18 July 1957, Rys grew up in Kladno, a metropolis of 60,000 about 20 miles outdoors of Prague. Miroslvav, starred for the Kladno soccer and ice hockey groups.

Wanting a greater life following the 1968 Soviet invasion, the Rys household emigrated to the USA, settling in Cicero, Illinois. Miroslav performed for Sparta of the Chicago Nationwide Soccer League. Father and son finally performed collectively on novice groups.

Rys led Morton East Excessive College to 3 league titles and runner-up within the Illinois state championship. In a single season he scored 27 targets, ending his profession with 58 whereas incomes All-America honors. He skipped school in favor of knowledgeable profession, although the Sting tried to persuade him in any other case.

“We instructed him, ‘We’re nonetheless going to be right here after you get out,’ however he wished to play,” Walker mentioned. “I instructed his father, “Right here’s what you’re doing. Your son gained’t be capable of play in school within the later years or for the Olympic crew.’ They understood.”

Rys, then 18, had a lot on his plate. He attended college earlier than coaching with the Sting later within the day. He earned $170 per week in 1976 (the equal of round $820 at present). It was excellent timing as a result of his father was laid off as a mechanic by Western Electrical a number of weeks prior.

“I’m not in it for the cash,” Rys mentioned. “I nonetheless play soccer for pleasure. Because the time I began kicking after I first walked, I all the time wished to be a soccer star.”

Rys realized he had obligations.

“Proper now, I’m supporting my household a bit bit,” he mentioned. “I’m not an enormous spender, so most of my cash goes to the household. We’re getting unemployment compensation, however that’s not sufficient. My mother and father don’t thoughts me supporting them. They’ve been supporting me for 18 years and now I assume it’s my flip.”

He hardly lacked in self-confidence. “I’m an all-around participant,” Rys mentioned. “I can do every thing properly. I don’t have any obvious weaknesses. I feel I can rating as a result of after I get in entrance of the web, I don’t miss.”

Towards the New York Cosmos, Rys lined Pele on a nook kick. “Issues have been operating via my head,” he mentioned. “I felt type of humorous standing subsequent to him. I didn’t freeze. My delight is there. I didn’t need him to attain on me. He didn’t.”

Within the season opener towards defending champion Tampa Bay Rowdies, Rys turned heads when he scored as an alternative choice to Chicago in a 2-1 loss. He completed the season with 4 targets and two assists in 17 matches.

With the USMNT desperately needing a real goalscorer to assist finish a World Cup drought relationship again to 1950, Rys was referred to as up.

He scored in two unofficial friendlies – in a 2-2 draw towards an area skilled all-star crew in Peru and in a 2-0 victory over the Central California League all-stars in Sacramento.

Chyzowych began {the teenager} within the qualifier and obtained rapid outcomes. Fifty-four minutes into his debut, Rys scored earlier than 17,675 on the Kingdome. Rys performed two extra video games with the USMNT in scoreless attracts towards Haiti.

When he didn’t get sufficient taking part in time with Chicago in 1977, Rys requested to be traded. He obtained his want, in an uncommon three-way commerce that spanned two leagues. The Los Angeles Skyhawks of the American Soccer League dealt center-back Steve Ralbovsky to Chicago, which despatched Rys to the Aztecs. The Aztecs dispatched defender Miguel Lopez to the Skyhawks.

On a crew that boasted George Greatest and Trinidad & Tobago worldwide Steven David, Rys didn’t see a lot motion till the latter was injured. He scored twice in 4 regular-season appearances, as soon as within the playoffs.

Wanting higher challenges, Rys declined an invite to play with the US on a Central American tour and ventured to West Germany.

Rys was despatched a stand-by ticket by a membership, however the flight was full. Rys was instructed to return to O’Hare Airport the following day. On the drive residence, Miroslav instructed his son, based on the Chicago Solar-Instances: “I don’t prefer it. They ship you an affordable ticket, an affordable flight. They’re not going to make every thing good for you. Don’t go to Germany. Keep right here. In December, you’ll be a free agent.”

Rys left the following day and finally tried out with Hertha Berlin.

On 12 September 1977, Rys was a passenger in a automotive that was concerned in a two-vehicle accident outdoors Dortmund. Each drivers and Miro have been killed. Rys was buried with a soccer ball and footwear. “I’ll give that to him, the 2 issues he liked,” his father instructed the Chicago Solar-Instances.

It was not identified whether or not it was the identical ball Rys scored with towards Canada. It might have been fairly becoming for US soccer’s first teen star.

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