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1993-1995 Los Angeles Salsa

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Los Angeles SalsaAmerican Professional Soccer League (1993-1994)
United Systems of Independent Soccer Leagues (1995)

Born: April 1992 – APSL expansion franchise
Folded: 1995


Team Colors:

Owner: William De La Pena


The Los Angeles Salsa was a professional outdoor soccer team that played for two seasons in the American Professional Soccer League (APSL).  The APSL was (briefly) the top tier of pro soccer in the United States at the time, largely because no one else was willing to put money into the outdoor game at the time.  But the U.S. was due to host World Cup ’94 and one of the conditions of winning the bid was that the country would establish a proper Division I pro league.  The APSL hoped to receive that sanction and Salsa owner William De La Pena was the league’s point person on the application process to U.S. Soccer.  Ultimately, the APSL was passed over by for Division I status in 1993 in favor of the much wealthier investors behind a proposed new league – Major League Soccer, which would debut in 1996.

De La Pena was an ophthalmologist who served a largely Latino clientele at his chain of clinics in East Los Angeles.  He brought in some big names to help manage the club, including Rildo Menezes, former teammate of Pele at Santos and on the Brazilian national team, as Head Coach and former U.S. National Team captain Rick Davis as General Manager.

During their expansion season, the Salsa started strong but lost eight of its final nine matches to finish 12-12 and back into the APSL’s final playoff spot.  After defeating the top seeded Vancouver 86ers on penalty kicks in the semi-final, the Salsa advanced to the league championship game against the Colorado Foxes on October 2, 1993.  Although the Foxes finished with a better record than the Salsa, L.A. was allowed to host the championship match at Titan Stadium in Fullerton, California.  The Salsa carried a 1-0 lead into the 87th minute on a goal by Philip Gyau, but allowed the Foxes to tie the match with less than three minutes to go.  Colorado got two goals in overtime to win 3-1 and take the APSL crown.

Brazilian forward Paulinho (15 goals, 7 assists) and Paul Wright (13 goal, 7 assists) finished 1-2 in the APSL in scoring and Paulinho was named MVP of the league for 1993.  Head Coach Rildo had subbed out Paulinho with four minutes remaining in regulation, drawing the wrath of owner De La Pena.  Rildo was forced to resign six days after the final.

Rick Davis replaced Rildo as coach for the Salsa’s sophomore season.  The Salsa improved to 12-8 in 1994 and finished 2nd place in the APSL.  Paulinho and Paul Wright finished atop the league scoring tables for the second year in a row, with Wright the top scorer this time.  Paulinho won league MVP honors once again.  The Salsa lost to the Montreal Impact in the semi-finals of the APSL playoffs on October 2, 1994.  This would prove to be the final match the franchise played.

Throughout 1994 the APSL continued to argue the unfairness of U.S. Soccer’s decision to pass it over for Division I status in favor of the yet-to-be-formed Major League Soccer.  But the veteran league hardly bolstered its case when one of its 1994 expansion clubs – the Houston Force – folded after playing only a single match, a 3-0 loss to the Salsa.  The league was clearly in disarray.  Salsa owner Bill De La Pena, meanwhile, had lost an estimated $2.5 million on the club over two seasons.  He attempted to enter the Salsa into a Mexican league beginning in September 1994, but the deal fell apart.

In January 1995, De La Pena took a leave of absence from the APSL for the 1995 season.  Instead, he and Davis moved operations to Mission Viejo and entered a low-budget U-23 team in the semi-pro United Systems of Independent Soccer Leagues (USISL).  The Salsa played out 1995 in anonymity and quietly folded before the arrival of Major League Soccer and the Los Angeles Galaxy in the spring of 1996.



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