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1977 Las Vegas Quicksilvers

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Las Vegas QuicksilversNorth American Soccer League (1977)

Born: October 19, 1976 – The San Diego Jaws relocate to Las Vegas
Moved: 1977 (San Diego Sockers)

Stadium: Las Vegas Stadium (14,926)

Team Colors: Silver, White & Blue

Owner: Ken Keegan

Soccer Bowl Championships: None

 

Is Las Vegas a Major League sports city?  That 30-year old debate still rages on occasion.  Waves of speculative sports ventures have planted their respective flags in the Nevada sand, with consistently tragic results.  Canadian football and Arena Football and indoor soccer have only the flimsiest of claims to Major League status and none have been able to lure tourists and conventioneers off the Strip.  The first league with a nationwide footprint to try to conquer Sin City was the North American Soccer League with their Las Vegas Quicksilvers club in the spring of 1977.

San Jose car dealer Ken Keegan owned the Quicksilvers.  Keegan was originally an investor in the NASL’s popular San Jose Earthquakes expansion franchise which entered the league in 1974.  In late 1975, Keegan bought the NASL’s struggling Baltimore Comets and moved the team to San Diego.  Keegan re-named his team the San Diego Jaws, after the Steven Spielberg blockbuster of 1975, but the soccer Jaws didn’t do the same kind of box office, averaging a modest 6,144 per game in 1976.  Keegan relocated the team to Las Vegas Stadium in the fall of 1976.

Jaws holdover Derek Trevis, a veteran of England’s lower division leagues, handled player-coach duties for the Quicksilvers.  The team had a distinct Portuguese flavor, with former Benfica teammates and National Team stars Eusebio and Humberto Coelho, along with Toni and Abel.  In the midfield, the Quicksilvers had the German duo of Wolfgang Sunholz and Franz Krauthausen.  The team’s best American player was the young goalkeeper Alan Mayer, who had been with the club since the Baltimore Comets days.

Las Vegas Quicksilvers

Former baseball executive Marvin Milkes served as Vice President and Director of Operations – essentially the General Manager – of the Quicksilvers.  Milkes gained a measure of national/literary notoriety as the General Manager of Major League Baseball’s doomed Seattle Pilots franchise in 1969.  Milkes was lampooned extensively by Pilots pitcher Jim Bouton in his groundbreaking memoir Ball Four.

The Quicksilvers finest moment came in their home opener at Las Vegas Stadium on April 9th, 1977. The team faced the NASL’s glamour club, the New York Cosmos.  The match pitted Pele of the Cosmos against the Quicksilvers’ aging Portuguese superstar Eusebio.  Throughout the 1960’s and early 1970’s Pele and Eusebio were considered by many football fans to be the world’s two finest players.  By 1977, Pele was in his final season of professional soccer while Eusebio was a shadow of his former self after multiple knee surgeries.  Nevertheless, the match was only the tenth time the two legends had faced each other.

An opening night crowd of 11,896 turned out at Las Vegas Stadium to watch the festivities. Pele knocked Eusebio out of the match with a hard slide tackle in the 38th minute. But the Quicksilvers shocked the Cosmos 1-0 on a goal by Victor Arbelaez.

The Quicksilvers got off to a 10-8 start. Alan Mayer was terrific in goal, recording shutouts in six of his first twelve matches.  But a late season collapse saw the ‘Silvers finish at 11-15, tied for last place in the NASL’s five-team Southern Division.  Wolfgang Sunholz was elected to the All-NASL 1st team in midfield and Alan Mayer was selected as the 2nd Team goalkeeper.

At the turnstiles, the Quicksilvers claimed an average attendance of 7,092 for 13 home dates, which ranked 14th among the NASL’s 18 clubs.  The team ended the 1977 season in financial and legal straits, facing a civil suit from the Clark County District Attorney’s office and proceedings from the Convention and Visitors Authority who were seeking $32,000 in back rent for Las Vegas Stadium.

Following the season, the Milwaukee Brewers explored purchasing the Quicksilvers and shifting the club to Milwaukee.  Instead, the team moved back to San Diego under new ownership in the fall of 1977, ending the one-year Las Vegas experiment.  As the San Diego Sockers, the former Comets-Jaws-Quicksilvers franchise lasted for another 18 years in three different leagues, becoming an indoor soccer dynasty during the 1980’s.

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Pro soccer returned to Las Vegas in 1984 with the Las Vegas Americans of the Major Indoor Soccer League.  Quicksilvers alum Alan Mayer handled most of the goalkeeping duties for the Americans, who played at the Thomas & Mack Arena.  Like the Quicksilvers, the Americans lasted only one season.

 

Las Vegas Quicksilvers Shop

Quicksilvers Retro T-shirt by Throwback Max

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

 

Las Vegas Quicksilvers Memorabilia

 

In Memoriam

Quicksilvers Vice President Marvin Milkes died of a heart attack in a Los Angeles health club in 1982. New York Times obituary.

Quicksilvers player/coach Derek Trevis passed away in 2000 at the age of 58.

Eusebio passed away on January 5, 2014 at age 71. The Guardian obituary.

 

Links

North American Soccer League Media Guides

North American Soccer League Programs

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Written by AC

December 19th, 2011 at 2:21 am

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