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1974-1976 Boston Minutemen

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North American Soccer League (1974-1976)

Born: December 26, 1973 – NASL expansion franchise.
Folded: 1976

Stadiums:

Team Colors: Red, White & Blue

Owner: John Sterge

NASL Championships: None

 

The Boston Minutemen were a once-promising North American Soccer League franchise that was brought to its knees in its third and final season by the financial troubles of its owner, Boston oil stock promoter John Sterge.

The Minutemen entered the NASL as an expansion club for the spring of 1974.  Under Head Coach Hubert Vogelsinger, the Minutemen won the Northern Division with a 10-9-1 record and advanced to within one game of the NASL championship match, losing in the playoff semi-final to the Los Angeles Aztecs.  The team’s first year roster included a colorful batch of characters.  Nigerian-born former West Ham United striker Ade Coker earned 2nd Team All-Star honors and went on to a long and productive career in American pro soccer through the late 1980’s.  Graham French was a once promising Luton Town winger whose career was derailed by a 1970 pub shooting that led to a three-year prison term.  French lasted only a handful of games in Boston.

Boston Minutemen ProgramPlaying at Boston College’s Alumni Stadium in suburban Chestnut Hill, the 1974 Minutemen averaged 9,642 fans per match, which was 5th best among the NASL’s 15 clubs.

In 1975, the Minutemen moved into Boston proper, setting up shop at Boston University’s Nickerson Field.  The club brought on former Harvard and U.S. Olympic goalkeeper Shep Messing, who was available thanks to a nude pictorial in Viva magazine in late 1974 that incensed the management of his former club, the New York Cosmos, leading to the termination of his contract.  In midseason, the Minutemen signed Portuguese legend Eusebio, arguably the second most famous footballer on the planet, after Pele of Brazil, who also signed with the NASL in 1975.  The 33-year old  “Black Pearl”, however, was in a state of steep decline, thanks to a series of knee injuries.  For the second straight year the Minutemen won their division, this time with a 13-9 record.  Boston lost in the playoff quarterfinal to the defending champion Miami Toros.

On June 20, 1975, the Minutemen hosted the New York Cosmos at Boston’s Nickerson Field.  The game marked the Boston debut of both Eusebio and Pele. The latter had recently signed a ground-breaking $4.5 million contract with the Cosmos.  Nickerson Field held about 14,000 fans at the time – more than adequate for the typical Minutemen crowd of a few thousand.  On this night, the Minutemen massively oversold the venue with approximately 20,000 fans in attendance.  Fans ringed the entire pitch, standing six deep just beyond the touchlines.

Eusebio opened the scoring on a free kick late in the second half to give Boston a 1-0 lead.  Minutes later Pele scored the apparent equalizer but the referee waved it off.  Meanwhile, fans swarmed onto the field to mob the Brazilian superstar.  The near-riot was quelled, but only after Pele was carted off with reported minor injuries at the hands of the marauding fans.  The Minutemen eventually won the game in overtime, but the Cosmos protested the riotous conditions at Nickerson Field.  NASL Commissioner Phil Woosnam upheld the protest and nullified the result. As a result the game was replayed in early August.

Despite the huge crowd for the Cosmos game, Minutemen attendance dropped by 50% in 1975 after the team moved to Nickerson Field.  The team averaged only 4,422 per match, despite the midseason addition of Eusebio and another division title.

Heading into the 1976 season, Head Coach Hubert Vogelsinger appeared to have one of the best sides – on paper – in league history.  Messing was back to handle the goalkeeping duties.  Coker had established himself as one of the NASL’s top goal scoring threats.  Eusebio and West German Wolfgang Sunholz worked the midfield.  Portuguese winger Antonio Simoes was another top holdover from the 1975 division championship team.

But off the field, the Minutemen organization was beginning to collapse.  Owner John Sterge hoped to move his club to a new venue – Harvard Stadium – for the third time in three seasons.  His negotiations with Harvard crashed into the rocks three days before the scheduled home opener, requiring the embarrassed Minutemen to postpone their first two home games.  It would later come out the Sterge was out of money, which fed the club’s chaos.  The Minutemen would wind up more or less homeless in 1976, bouncing back and forth between four stadiums during the summer of 1976 and finished the season in a minor league baseball stadium in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.

In June 1976, with Sterge on the verge of insolvency, he sold off most of his starters in a fire sale.  Messing, Coker, Simoes, Sunholz, Eusebio and others all departed.  Hubert Vogelsinger resigned in protest.  After a respectable 7-5 start, the Minutemen lost their final 12 games with replacement players to finish in last place with a 7-17 record.  Average attendance of 2,571 per game was the worst in the 20-team NASL in 1976.

The club entered bankruptcy in 1976.  John Sterge was investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission and later sentenced to 30 months in prison in 1980 after pleading guilty to securities fraud charges.

In December 1977, the Lipton Tea Company purchased the rights to the Minutemen franchise from the bankruptcy receiver for $370,001 and re-established the team in the North American Soccer League as the New England Tea Men for the 1978 season.

 

Boston Minutemen Shop

Eusebio Boston Minutemen replica jerseys by Ultras

Ian Plenderleith’s definitive chronicle of “The Short Life & Fast Times of the North American Soccer League”

 

Boston Minutemen Memorabilia

 

Minutemen Video

The Minutemen vs. New York Cosmos at Nickerson Field.  August 3, 1975.  (Thanks to FWIL reader Tim Hanlon for posting this to YouTube).

 

Links

North American Soccer League Media Guides

North American Soccer League Programs

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1969-1975 Boston / Worcester Astros

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Boston Astros SoccerAmerican Soccer League (1969-1975)

Born: 1969 – Joined American Soccer League.
Folded: Postseason 1975

Stadiums:

Team Colors:

Owner: John Bertos

ASL Champions: 1975 (Co-Champions)

 

The Boston Astros were a classic mom & pop operations in the rough & tumble business of American pro soccer in the 1970’s.  The “pop” in this instance was John Bertos, a Greek immigrant and former soccer player who more or less single-handedly organized, financed and coached the Astros for their seven seasons in the lower rungs of the professional game.

The Astros claimed to trace their origins back to the early 1950’s with the formation of an amateur team called the Lowell Pan-Hellenic Soccer Club.  This was a bit of a stretch. The main connection here was that Bertos started coaching Pan-Hellenic in 1964.  The real history of the Astros as a pro club began in 1969 when they were invited to join the American Soccer League, the nation’s longest running soccer loop, dating back to the early 1930’s.  Despite the ASL’s long history, it was comically disorganized and constantly on the brink of implosion.

Bertos ran the Astros with the proceeds from his Lowell-based janitorial service and helped to employ some of his immigrant players in the business.  His Astros’ squads of the 1970’s had a heavy Brazilian presence.  Two of his top Brazilian finds were strikers Helio “Boom Boom” Barbosa and Jose Neto.  The ASL named Barbosa Most Valuable Player of the 1973 season. Neto captured the same honor after lighting up the league scoring tables as a 20-year old rookie in 1975.

The Astros initially played their home matches in the Northern Massachusetts industrial city of Lowell, but moved into Boston in 1972, splitting the next few years between Boston University’s Nickerson Field and aAlumni Stadium at Boston College in the nearby suburb of Chestnut Hill.

In 1974, Bertos got some outside investment help for the first time, in the person of Worcester fuel company executive David Adams (which perhaps explains the really nice media guide produced for 1974 at the top of this post).  But competition also arrived in the form of the Boston Minutemen, a 1974 expansion club in the superior North American Soccer League.  In 1975, the Minutemen moved in to Nickerson Field. Boston now had two pro teams playing the in the same stadium.

Bertos couldn’t survive the competition and moved his club to Worcester late in the 1975 season, setting up shop at Foley Stadium to finish out the year.  Occasionally, the 1975 team is referred to as the Worcester Astros.  Thanks to Jose Neto’s scoring heroics, the team advanced the the ASL championship against New York Apollo in Mt. Vernon, New York.  When the decisive game went into overtime and then remained knotted for nine more overtime periods until the local curfew was reached, ASL Commissioner Bob Cousy (yes, that Bob Cousy) stepped in and simply declared the Apollo and the Astros co-champions.  Minor league soccer’s version of a hung jury.

The Astros folded after the 1975 season.  In 1976, Bertos briefly assumed the General Manager and Head Coach position of his former rivals, the NASL’s Boston Minutemen.  But his job was only to oversee the club’s dissolution. The Minutemen were also out of money and in the midst of their own messy dissolution.  In 1977, he returned to the American Soccer League as Head Coach of the Providence-based New England Oceaneers for a single season.

 

Boston Astros Shop


American Soccer League Logo T-Shirt by Ultras

 

Links

American Soccer League Media Guides

American Soccer League Programs

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