Perry Van Der Beck

Perry Vanderbeck headshotHello, I’m Perry Van Der Beck and I’m looking forward to seeing so many of my former teammates and other players at the NASL’s 50th anniversary event in Frisco, Tex., in October. I’m a St. Louis guy who joined the Tampa Bay Rowdies in 1978 and stayed on Florida’s Gulf Coast after my playing days (outdoor and indoor) ended.

Van Der Beck, like so many American players in the early days of the NASL, hailed from the soccer hotbed in the St. Louis area. He played at St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Florissant, Mo., and was able to train with the St. Louis stars while still in high school.

“I was playing for a U.S. youth national team in a tournament in France and Fernando Marcos, Peter Short and Ray Klivecka were there scouting,” Van Der Beck said. “The next thing you know I got drafted by the Rowdies, who were one of my favorite teams. It was surreal. I was on the same field and training every day with some great players. Eighteen years old and now it’s my livelihood.”

The roster was sprinkled with some of the best and most entertaining players in the U.S. and the NASL — Rodney Marsh, Steve Wegerle, Winston DuBose, Derek Smethurst, Mike Connell and others.

“When I got down there the style was very entertaining, wide open,” Van Der Beck said. “The Rowdies’ branding was on another level.”

To this day, who can forget the Rowdies’ slogan “Soccer Is a Kick in the Grass.” VDB now is running Camp Kick in the Grass.

But as a youngster on a team sprinkled with experienced players from around the world, Van Der Beck found an accepting group of teammates who “didn’t say anything if you did something good, but you heard it if you didn’t.” It took him a while to break into Coach Gordon Jago’s starting selection, but once there, Van Der Beck became a fixture in the midfield. “I was where I wanted to be,” he said.

His breakthrough came in 1979 when Van Der Beck was second on the Rowdies in total minutes played. He assisted on the goal that sent Tampa Bay to the Soccer Bowl ’79, against the Vancouver Whitecaps before more than 50,000 at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ.

“One of the things that stick out from that season was the [conference finals] series against San Diego,” he said. “We lost the first game in San Diego [2-1], then won the return game in Tampa [3-2, with nearly 39,000 fans in the stadium] and the shootout [3-0]. It was pouring rain. We went back in the locker room before the minigame [won by the Rowdies, 1-0] and I told the equipment guy that my jersey was soaked. We only had one in those days, and he took it from me and said he’d iron it. I went back out in a training top. I had to go back to the locker room to get my jersey. Gordon wasn’t too happy about that.

“Looking back, we lived in a great moment.”