Any Scottish expatriates arriving at the Cotton Bowl stadium in Dallas on the evening of June 3, 1967 were in for a surprise when the touring players from Dundee United, playing under the guise of the Dallas Tornado, hosted the Houston Stars in their United Soccer Association home opener.
Head coach Jerry Kerr’s side appeared on the narrow Dallas Cowboys football field sporting natty tangerine outfits rather than the conservative white jerseys and shorts that they wore in Scotland. United adopted the colors two years later after a second summer stint representing Lamar Hunt’s Texas franchise when Kerr’s wife suggested that a bold, modernized makeover was required for the emerging Tannadice club.
United had ended the 1958-59 season in 35th place out of 37 teams in the Scottish league structure when Kerr arrived from Alloa Athletic to transform the club’s fortunes. A lottery scheme known as Taypools provided funds to bolster the playing staff and Kerr raided Scandinavia, where professionalism was still forbidden, to bring in Orjan Persson and Lennart Wing from Sweden, Mogens Berg and Finn Dossing from Denmark, and Norwegian Finn Seemann. United climbed to sixth in Scotland’s top division in 1966 and qualified for European competition for the first time.
Barcelona were dispatched by 2-1 in the Camp Nou and 2-0 in Dundee as United romped past the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup holders before losing out to Juventus, and Kerr’s team began to signal their intent to challenge Scotland’s Old Firm. United were the only side to beat Celtic as the Glasgow giants swept five trophies, including the European Cup, in the 1966-67 season. It was a feat they achieved twice with 3-2 league wins at Tannadice and Celtic Park.
“We’re impressed,” millionaire Hunt told reporters ahead of the USA tournament. “The team is young and has a lot of potential.”
Scorching summer temperatures hindered United’s attempts to display their true form to the American public. Tornado officials frequently tossed ice cubes to the players to rub on their necks, wrists and temples and an oxygen tank was kept on the Cotton Bowl sidelines in case of emergency.
Houston left Dallas with a scoreless tie watched by 16,431 fans after Jackie Graham’s strike was ruled out by a dubious offside decision, and the Tornado ultimately finished bottom of the USA’s six-team Western Division with just three wins from 12 games.
Still, the seeds of Jim McLean’s Tangerine Terrors that would rise to become one of Europe’s top teams in the mid-1980s had been sown.
“Summer Of ’67: Flower Power, Race Riots, Vietnam and the Greatest Soccer Final Played on American Soil” by Ian Thomson charts the story of the 1967 USA tournament. Former Dundee United trio Mogens Berg, Jackie Graham and Donald Mackay are among the participants from eight clubs that recall the capers, the gimmicks, the celebrity brushes and the games that provided them with the trip of a lifetime.
The book is set for release through Amazon.com in July 2013. For further information, follow @SoccerObserver on Twitter or ‘The Soccer Observer’ on Facebook.
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