One of the top goal scorers from the semi-professional and amateur level in the Big Apple, striker Andrew “Andy” Mate, played in the inaugural NASL season with the New York Cosmos in 1971 and scored the third-ever hat-trick at the CONCACAF Champions' Cup.
Mate was the first player to win the U.S. Open Cup, lead his club to victory on Mexican soil, represent the U.S. National Team, and help secure the Cosmos a playoff berth in their first season.
Prior to his stint with the Cosmos, the Hungarian-born Mate competed with New York Hungaria SC of the German American Soccer League (now the Cosmopolitan Soccer League), a semi-professional / amateur circuit comprised of teams located in the New York City area.
Mate’s NY Hungaria captured the German American Soccer League (GASL) title and went on to claim the U.S. National Challenge Cup (now Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup) in 1962 by defeating the San Francisco Scots 3-2 in the final with the Hungarian striker scoring two of the team's three goals to qualify for the CONCACAF Champions’ Cup (now CONCACAF Champions League) the following year.
As the first U.S. club at the Continental Confederation tournament in 1963, Mate led the NY Hungaria to victory over the 1962-63 Mexican champion CD Oro during the first round, by scoring all three goals and registering the first hat-trick by a U.S. player south of the border.
“It was a big thing for us as we were amateurs compared to the Mexican side who had professionals,” said Mate in an interview in early 2012. “They didn't acknowledge us as players and underestimated us, which worked to our advantage on the field.”
The crowd of 35,000 spectators at Guadalajara's El Pedregal Stadium witness the U.S. club achieve this historic feat by topping CD Oro, 3-2 on March 18, 1963.
“It was natural for me to score,” Mate added. “My success on the field was due to my quickness and ability to battle for every ball and shoot from different angles. Our coach (Geza) Henni always told the team 'give the ball to Andy, he'll score, and we'll win'.”
It would not be until August 2011 that another American club finally won in Mexico after 24 teams from seven different U.S. leagues (Divisions I, II, III, Semi-Professional, Amateur) from were unsuccessful.
After eliminating CD Oro in the second-leg, NY Hungaria’s progressed to the 1963 second round but was defeated by the defending CONCACAF champions CD Guadalajara of Mexico.
Mate ended tied for first on the 1963 Champions' Cup scoring chart and not until 1998 did a U.S. player finish as the CONCACAF club tournament scoring champion.
The following year, Mate earned an international appearance for the U.S. national team in 1964 against England. He also saw action playing for several overseas clubs including Deportivo Cali of Colombia and West Germany's Hamburger SV before becoming a late acquisition for the Cosmos in their inaugural NASL season in 1971.
“A player with experience, in Europe as well as here,” said former Cosmos General Manager Clive Toye on the addition of Mate. “Sharp, quick, dangerous and one of so many we took from the German-American League at the start of the Cosmos. The German-American League then changed its name to Cosmopolitan League (in 1977), to show its support of the Cosmos”
Mate played the final matches of the regular season for the Cosmos in a 3-3 draw against Montreal Olympique, a 2-1 win over the Atlanta Chiefs, scoring twice, while assisting in the other three goals as the team reached the 1971 playoffs.
“It was brief but I enjoyed my time playing with them (Cosmos),” Mate recalled in the 2012 interview. “I made an immediate impact towards the end of the season as we reached the playoffs.”
Mate returned to the Cosmopolitan Soccer League to once again suit up for NY Hungaria before he closed out his career with the New York Greek American AA at the age of 41.
Mate passed away in his native Hungary on May 13, 2012 at the age of 7