Lively Tales About Dead Teams

Archive for the ‘North American Soccer League’ Category

1974-1981 Washington Diplomats

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Washington Diplomats SoccerNorth American Soccer League (1974-1981)

Born: January 21, 1974 – NASL expansion franchise
Folded: December 1980
Re-Born: February 28, 1981 – The Detroit Express relocate to Washington, D.C.
Folded Again: September 1981

Stadia:

Team Colors:

Owners:

  • 1974: Nick Mangione, Mike Finci, et. al.
  • 1975-1978: San Juan Racing, Inc. (Steve Danzansky, et al.)
  • 1979-1980: Gulf & Western/Madison Square Garden Corp. (Sonny Werblin) & Steve Danzansky
  • 1981; Jimmy Hill, Duncan Hill, Gary Lemmen, et al.

Soccer Bowl Championships: None

 

The Washington Diplomats were the third attempt to establish pro soccer – and a North American Soccer League franchise – in the nation’s capital.  Club founders Nick Mangione and Mike Finci ponied up $75,000 to buy their NASL expansion franchise in January 1974. The Diplomats hired former Manchester United star and Munich air disaster survivor Dennis Viollet to coach the team.

The Dips, as the team was colloquially known, struggled to establish an identity in their early years. The team was mediocre during the Viollet (1973-1977) and qualified for the postseason only once. Ownership changed hands in 1975, with the Daznansky family buying out Mangione and his partners for $650,000. The club bounced back and forth between RFK Stadium and a high school football stadium in Fairfax, Virginia from 1974 to 1976. RFK conveyed big-city, Major League status. W.T. Woodson High School was economical and more convenient for the Dips’ white flight core audience. The Fairfax games also marked the Dips as a distinctly minor league operation.

Johan Cruyff Washington DiplomatsThe Diplomats’ glory years came during a brief period at the end of the 1970’s. The club hired John Carbray as General Manager in October 1976. Carbray, a veteran minor league baseball exec, brought his innovative promotions to soccer in 1976 with the NASL’s San Jose Earthquakes. Carbray persuaded the Dips’ ownership to commit to RFK Stadium once and for all. The NASL was never a league to worry much about FIFA conventions. Carbray embrace the league’s permissiveness, introducing multi-colored penalty areas and goal boxes at RFK. He also hired former New York Cosmos manager Gordon Bradley to replace Viollet as the club’s Hea Coach in 1978.

Announced attendance rose from 5,963 per game in Fairfax in 1976 to 13,037 at RFK in 1977 during Carbray’s first season in charge. The team had a major on-field improvement in form in 1978 under Gordon Bradley.  But attendance fell back to 10,783 and the team remained deeply in the red.

A lifeline arrived in October 1978 when Madison Square Garden Corporation, a subsidiary of the publicly traded conglomerate Gulf & Western, purchased the team. Madison Square Garden owned the NBA’s New York Knicks and the NHL’s New York Rangers. MSG Chief Executive Officer Sonny Werblin was the man who built the New York Jets and signed Joe Namath, setting in motion the AFL’s infamous upset of the NFL champion Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III. With Gulf & Western’s resources behind the team, it suddenly seemed plausible that the Diplomats could take on the Time Warner-owned New York Cosmos as an international super club.

“Sonny and his crew are out to spend it all,” Atlanta Chiefs Director of Operations Terry Hanson predicted to Alex Yannis of The New York Times in December 1978. “I hear they are going to crank the whole thing wide open, spend all the money they have for players … I hear they already call them the Cosmos of the South.”

After Madison Square Garden’s takeover, the Diplomats negotiated for Argentine World Cup captain Daniel Passarella and nearly signed English captain and 1978 European Football-of-the-Year Kevin Keegan. But the Sonny Werblin era was not without controversy. Werblin’s original goal in buying an NASL club was to move the team to Shea Stadium in Flushing and take on the New Jersey-based Cosmos head-to-head. MSG ultimately balked at the $12 million territorial fee demanded by the Cosmos and elected to stay in D.C. But Werblin’s long-term commitment to Washington was placed into question from the start.

 

Washington Diplomats Shop

Diplomats Distressed Logo T-Shirt by Ultras

Diplomats Soccer Shorts by Ultras

Rock n’ Roll Soccer: The Short Life & Fast Times of the North American Soccer League by Ian Plenderleith

 

Washington Diplomats Memorabilia

 

Diplomats Video

 

In Memoriam

Owner Sonny Werblin (Dips ’78-’80) died of a heart attack on November 21, 1991 at the age of 81. New York Times obituary.

Forward Bobby Stokes (Dips ’77-’80) died of bronchial pneumonia on May 30, 1995 at 44 years of age.

Manager Dennis Viollet (Dips ’74-’77) passed away after a two-year battle with brain cancer on March 6, 1999 at age 65.

Manager Gordon Bradley (Dips ’78-’80) passed on April 29, 2008 after fighting Alzheimer’s Disease. He was 74. New York Times obituary.

Midfielder John Kerr, Sr. (Dips ’76-’77) passed away from heart disease on June 19, 2011 at the age of 67. Washington Post obituary.

Midfielder Johan Cruyff died of cancer on March 24, 2016. The Flying Dutchman was 68 years old. New York Times obituary.

 

Downloads

1977 Washington Diplomats Ticket Brochure

1977 Washington Diplomats Media Guide Additions & Deletions

8-6-1977 Washington Diplomats vs. New York Cosmos Game Notes

5-27-1980 Washington Diplomats vs. New York Cosmos Match Preview Press Advisory

6-1-1980 Washington Diplomats vs. New York Cosmos Game Notes

Soccer Bowl ’80 Ticket Order Form

1980 Arthur Treacher’s Soccer Teacher Booklet

8-12-1981 Washington Diplomats vs. New York Cosmos Game Notes

 

Links

Jim Reed’s excellent Diplomat fan/history site: washingtondiplomats.blogspot.com

North American Soccer League Media Guides

North American Soccer League Programs

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1967-1969 Oakland Clippers

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Oakland ClippersNational Professional Soccer League (1967)
North American Soccer League (1968)
Independent (1968-1969)

Born: 1967 – NPSL founding franchise
Folded: June 4, 1969

Stadiums: 

Team Colors:

Owners: Joseph O’Neill, H.T. Hilliard & William Brinton

NPSL Champions: 1967
NASL Championships: None

 

The Oakland Clippers were one of ten founding franchises in the National Professional Soccer League of 1967. The league featured investors from Major League Baseball and the National Football League and was one of the first efforts at launching a true top flight soccer league in the United States. The team was initially known as the California Clippers when the NPSL kicked off in the spring of 1967, then switched to the Oakland Clippers moniker midway through the season.

With a roster full of Yugoslavs, the Clippers were the class of the NPSL in 1967. They compiled a league-best 19-8-5 record and went undefeated at the Oakland Coliseum. Serbian midfielder Ilija Mitic led the squad in scoring with 13 goals and 3 assists.

The Clippers faced the Baltimore Bays in the two-game NPSL championship series in September 1967. After dropping the 1st leg on the road in Baltimore, the Clippers took the title with a commanding 4-1 victory over the Bays in Oakland on September 9, 1967. Midseason pick-up Dragan Djukic put the game away with a first half hat trick.

 

Oakland Clippers Shop

Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum T-Shirt by Throwback Max

Ian Plenderleith’s Definitive Account of “The Short Life & Fast Times of the North American Soccer League

 

Oakland Clippers Memorabilia

 

California Clippers Video

Clippers vs. Dynamo Kiev friendly at Kezar Stadium. February 23, 1969.

 

Links

National Professional Soccer League Media Guides

National Professional Soccer League Programs

North American Soccer League Media Guides

North American Soccer League Programs

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1967-1968 Toronto Falcons

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Toronto FalconsNational Professional Soccer League (1967)
North American Soccer League (1968)

Born: 1967 – NPSL founding franchise
Folded: 1968

Stadium: Varsity Stadium

Team Colors:

Owner: Joe Peters

NPSL Championships: None
NASL Championships: None

 

The Toronto Falcons played two seasons of pro soccer at Varsity Stadium during the late 1960’s. The roots of the team traced back to the Toronto Italia-Falcons of the Eastern Canada Professional Soccer League. Italia-Falcons owner Joe Peters backed the promotion of the team into the ambitious National Professional Soccer League (NPSL) in 1967. The NPSL was one of two start-up North American pro leagues that launched in 1967. The NPSL’s rival, the United Soccer Association (USA), also featured a Toronto entry – Toronto City, owned by future Toronto Maple Leafs owner Steve Stavro.

Peters hired former Barcelona and Atletico Madrid manager Ferdinand Daucik to coach the Falcons in 1967. Daucik came as a package deal with members of his soccer-playing family, including son Yanko Daucik, son-in-law Ladislav Kubala and Kubala’s son Branko. “Laddie” Kubala, as Falcons officials referred to the 40-year old Hungarian, was one of the greatest strikers to ever play for FC Barcelona. He would score 5 goals in 19 appearances with the Falcons in 1967 in his final playing campaign. But it was Yanko Daucik who lit up the NPSL with a league best 20 goals in 1967.

Despite Yanko Daucik’s offensive heroics, the 1967 Falcons finished out of the NPSL playoff picture with a 10-17-5 record.

The USA and the NPSL merged to form the North American Soccer League at the end of 1967. As part of the deal, the new league bought out Toronto City owner Steve Stavro for $160,000, clearing the marketplace for Joe Peters and the Falcons.

Ladislav Kubala replaced Ferdinand Daucik as club manager for the 1968 season. Yanko Daucik showed flashes of his 1967 scoring touch with five goals, but managed to appear in just four matches in 1968. The team improved slightly to 13-13-6, but missed the playoffs once again.

The Falcons folded after the 1968 season, along with 11 of the other 16 NASL franchises.  The league managed to survive with just five club in 1969 and returned to Toronto with the formation of the Toronto Metros in 1971.

 

Toronto Falcons Shop

Ian Plenderleith’s Definitive Account of “The Short Life and Fast Times of the North American Soccer League

 

Toronto Falcons Memorabilia

 

Links

North American Soccer League Media Guides

North American Soccer League Programs

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Written by Drew Crossley

February 26th, 2017 at 9:50 pm

1968 Boston Beacons

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Boston BeaconsNorth American Soccer League (1968)

Born: 1967 – NPSL expansion franchise
Folded: October 1968

Stadium: Fenway Park (33,700)

Team Colors: Navy Blue & Gold

Owners: Richard O’Connell, Arnold “Red” Auerbach, Stephen Mugar, Sabestino Volpe

NASL Championships: None

 

The Boston Beacons were a One-Year Wonder that played at Fenway Park during the summer of 1968. The club was owned by a group of prominent Bostonians, including philanthropist Stephen Mugar, Celtics general manager Red Auerbach and Boston Red Sox executive vice president Dick O’Connell.

The Beacons originally formed in 1967 as a franchise in the start-up National Professional Soccer League (NPSL). But the Beacons delayed their entry into the NPSL until 1968. In the meantime, the club hosted a few 1967 NPSL regular season matches at Fenway in 1967 to generate buzz for the new league.

Another pro soccer start-up, the United Soccer Association (USA), also launched in 1967. The USA also had a Boston franchise, the Boston Shamrock Rovers, who played at the Manning Bowl in Lynn, Massachusetts. Boston Bruins owner Weston Adams and his family back the Rovers financially. Unlike the Beacons, the Rovers fielded a team and played a full season in 1967.

In December 1967, the USA and NPSL merged to form the North American Soccer League (NASL). The new league now had two Boston franchises. The Rovers fell by the wayside and the Beacons became Boston’s sole pro soccer franchise when the NASL kicked off in April 1968.

The Beacons lone season in Boston was a flop. The team failed to qualify for the NASL playoffs with a 9-17-6 record. The team was a bust at the box office as well. The Beacons drew just 64,064 for 16 dates at Fenway, for a meager 4,004 average. Beacons ownership announced the club would not return in late October 1968.

 

Boston Beacons Memorabilia

 

Links

North American Soccer League Media Guides

North American Soccer League Programs

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Written by Drew Crossley

October 9th, 2016 at 4:17 pm

1967-1980 Rochester Lancers

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Rochester Lancers American Soccer League (1967-1969)
North American Soccer League (1970-1980)

Born: 1967 – ASL expansion franchise.
Folded: November 24, 1980

Stadium: Holleder Stadium (22,000)

Team Colors: Blue & Gold

Owners:

NASL Champions: 1970

 

The Lancers were Rochester’s first professional soccer club. The team formed in 1967 as an expansion entry in the semi-pro American Soccer League. Aquinas Stadium, a 20,000-seat high school football field on Ridgeway Avenue, served as the Lancers’ home pitch. Lancers co-founder and Chairman Charles Schiano was an Aquinas grad but the team drew its name from Schiano’s college alma mater – the University of Windsor Lancers in Ontario, Canada.

In 1970 the Lancers and the Washington Darts jumped from the regional ASL to the more ambitious North American Soccer League (NASL). The move likely saved the NASL from folding. The USA’s top soccer league had just four franchises willing to continue in 1970. Poaching Rochester and Washington from the ASL reversed the NASL’s downward spiral. By the time of Pele’s seismic contract with the NASL’s New York Cosmos in 1975, the league boasted twenty franchises.

Rochester’s earliest star was the 5′ 4″ Brazilian striker Carlos Metidieri. The “Little Mouse” poured in 33 goals and 15 assists in 1970 and 1971, earning back-to-back NASL MVP honors. With Metidieri up top, the Lancers advanced to the 1970 NASL championship series. The format was a two-game total goals competition against the Washington Darts. After racking up a 3-0 victory in Game One at Aquinas Stadium, the Lancers held off a furious Darts effort in Game Two, losing 3-1, but taking the 1970 crown by virtue of a 4-3 margin on total goals.

Changes were afoot during the 1973 season. Financial problems forced Schiano and partner Pat Dinolfo to sell controlling interest in the Lancers to real estate developer John Petrossi for $60,000. Meanwhile, the City re-named Aquinas Stadium that July, in honor of Aquinas Institute graduate Maj. Don Holleder.  Holleder, a college football All-America at West Point, was killed in action in Vietnam in 1967. On the field, the Lancers finished last and missed the playoffs for the first time in the NASL. Carlos Metidieri departed for the NASL’s new expansion team in Boston following the 1973 campaign. The Lancers entered a period of mid-decade mediocrity.

1979 Rochester Lancers Media GuideOwner John Petrossi died of cancer in late 1976. Charles Schiano and Pat Dinolfo re-acquired controlling interest in the team. The Lancers had their final thrilling season in 1977. Despite an 11-15 regular season mark under Head Coach Don Popovic, Rochester made it into the postseason thanks to the NASL’s forgiving playoff format. Then the Lancers caught fire. They dispatched St. Louis via shootout in the first round.

Next came a wild two-game quarterfinal with arch-rival Toronto Metros-Croatia. The repressed nationalist rivalries of Cold War-era Yugoslavia amped up the playoff atmosphere. Popovic was Serbian and his Lancers teams of the late 1970’s were stocked with his fellow countrymen. Meanwhile, to the NASL leadership’s great chagrin, the Toronto club was run with a blatant ethnic/nationalist identity by Croatian ex-pats in Canada.

In game one, Lancers midfielder Francisco Escos picked up two yellow cards – an automatic ejection. But referee Henry Landauer lost track of the card accumulation and allowed Escos to play on and Rochester to remain at full strength. The Lancers won on penalty kicks. NASL Commissioner Phil Woosnam acknowledged the error but denied Toronto’s protest of the match result. (The Escos incident is still cited decades later in Soccer For Dummies.) In game two in Toronto, the Lancers prevailed 1-0 despite finishing the match two men down. The Lancers earned a semi-final showdown with the powerhouse New York Cosmos club.

The first leg of the 1977 semis in Rochester drew a sellout of 20,005 to Holleder Stadium. The Lancers fell 2-1, but still had a shot on aggregate goals heading into the second leg at Giants Stadium in New Jersey. 74,000 Cosmos fans awaited the Lancers in the Meadowlands. Popovic’s squad returned to its 11-15 regular season form and lost 4-1.

The Lancers’ final seasons suffered due to internecine warfare among the club owners. As the team’s financial situation worsened further at the end of the 1970’s, the Rochester-based owners sought new capital. A pair of Long Island-based investors, John Luciani and Bernie Rodin, pumped over a million dollars into the Lancers in 1979. The two factions faced off in court during the 1980 season. The NASL booted the Lancers franchise out of the league that November.

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The Rochester Flash replaced the Lancers on the local soccer scene in 1981. The Flash played in the 2nd Division American Soccer League, where the Lancers began life in 1967. They played three seasons at Holleder before folding in 1984.

Holleder Stadium was demolished in 1985.

Over the years the Lancers drew their biggest crowds for derbies against the star-studded New York Cosmos. But the teams fiercest rivalry, according to former Lancers beat writer Michael Lewis, was with the various iterations of the NASL’s Toronto franchise. Lewis has a wonderful look back at the Rochester-Toronto soccer rivalry on Big Apple Soccer here.

 

Rochester Lancers Shop


Rochester Lancers Retro T-Shirt by Throwback Max

Ian Plenderleith’s Definitive Account of “The Short Life & Fast Times of the North American Soccer League

 

Rochester Lancers Memorabilia

 

In Memoriam

Part owner and team President John Petrossi died of cancer on November 24, 1976 at age 68.

Lancers founder and owner Pat Dinolfo passed away on April 13th, 2006.

Lancers all-time leading scorer Mike Stojanovic died after a battle with stomach cancer on November 18, 2010. He was 63 years old.

 

Rochester Lancers Video

The Lancers take on the New York Cosmos before 41,305 at Giants Stadium. May 28th, 1978.

 

Downloads

June 9, 1971 Rochester Lancers vs. New York Cosmos Game Notes

June 15, 1977 Rochester Lancers vs. New York Cosmos Game Notes

This New York State Tax Commission petition from 1987 sheds some lights on the ownership squabbles of the Lancers final seasons.

 

Links

American Soccer League Programs

North American Soccer League Media Guides

North American Soccer League Programs

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