For a forward, confidence in front of goal is absolutely crucial, and Trinidadian international Steve David had it in abundance during his career.
“Every time I entered the field, I thought I could score,” David told NASL.com. “I didn’t think there was any defender or goalkeeper that could stop me.”
And when it came to taking the pitch, David proved there were, in fact, few who could slow him down.
A prolific scorer since his debut season in the NASL with the Miami Toros in 1974, David finished his time in the NASL with 100 goals, sitting in seventh place in the Golden Era scoring charts.
“It’s what I expected of myself. If I didn’t score I didn’t let it bother me. If I went on a run of not scoring, I thought maybe I need to do more shooting or correct my mistakes in practice,” he said.
David was the league’s top scorer in 1975 with the Toros (also the league’s MVP) and again in 1977 with the Los Angeles Aztecs. The season with the Aztecs, though, stands out as particularly impressive.
Scoring just once in 13 games in his final year with the Toros in 1976, David was asked to play as a target striker and to hold up the ball, which didn’t suit his strengths. Heading to the West Coast with the Aztecs the following season, David’s goalscoring acumen was back on full display.
“It was a different style,” David said. “My last season in Miami, it was different. The midfielders wanted you to play with your back to the goal. I like to be running at players.
“When I came to L.A., I could do what I liked – running at players and running in positions I expected the ball to be.”
Getting a chance to play to utilize his quickness in space, David went on a run of 10 consecutive games finding the back of the net, starting on May 22 and coming to an end in a 2-0 shutout loss to the Toronto Metros-Croation on July 4. During that stretch, the forward tallied 14 goals.
David started the 1977 season on a much shorter streak, scoring in the first four games – all wins, although two of them came in a shootout – to set the tone for the year.
“When you go on a run of goals, it becomes easier and easier, and you get more opportunities even though teams are keeping an eye on you,” David said. “When the game comes to you, it’s always better, so you don’t have to force anything. You get in the zone, you play, and, when the time comes, you put them away.”
While starting the season in great form, David did not score for the next three games. When he found the back of the net twice in a 3-1 win against the Vancouver Whitecaps, it was the start of what would become the record streak, scoring in his next 10 appearances. The forward’s streak was never broken and only equaled once in 1981 by Canadian international Mike Stojanovic with the San Diego Sockers.
“I never thought it was a big deal,” David said. “Even when I was growing up, I scored in a lot of games.
“I didn’t think of it being a record or anything.”
The forward who scored 24 goals in 26 games in his first season in L.A. had plenty of help from his supporting cast. George Best had a league-best 18 assists, while David also benefitted from the midfield play of Charlie Cooke, who added 15 assists of his own over the course of the season.
“I had good players around me – Charlie Cooke, George Best, all of these players – and putting the ball in the net was easy for me at the time,” David said.
“He (George) gave me the ball in the right places. We really understood each other very well. I knew when he had the ball, as long as I found space, he’d get it to me. He made my job much easier, all I had to do was finish. Charlie was another excellent player. George was the key, though. He was the key to everything.”
Despite all the goals, it would ultimately finish in frustration for David and the Aztecs. Shortly before the end of the regular season, David picked up an injury in a match against the San Jose Earthquakes.
“Very frustrating for me during that period,” he said. ‘I got hit on the side of the knee by the goalkeeper, and it stretched the ligaments in my knee – didn’t tear it, just stretched it.
“The team couldn’t afford to lose me at that point because they were losing 26 goals in the season.”
Missing the rest of the regular season and ensuing postseason, the Aztecs – which led the league in goals with 65 – fell in the semifinals to the Seattle Sounders. David, with the confidence he surely had in front of goal, believes the Aztecs could have and should have been the team to play the New York Cosmos in the final that season – and that the Aztecs would have been crowned champions. The Sounders lost the final, 2-1.
“I think we were the best team in the league that year, including the Cosmos, even though they had Pelé,” David said.
“Injuries are part of the game, and we had to do the best we could.”
Looking back on it, it was still a memorable season for the Trinidadian international, and it was a season his goalscoring prowess was on full display as well as firing his way to streak that will continue to be tough to top.