Lively Tales About Dead Teams

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1990-1991 New York Kick


National Professional Soccer League (1991-1992)

Born: September 13, 1990 – NPSL expansion franchise.
Died: September 27, 1991 – The Kick cease operations.


Team Colors:



Doomed indoor soccer club that muddled through a single season in upstate New York during the winter of 1990-91 before lack of community interest and investor litigation conspired to wipe the New York Kick off the map.

A group of nearly forty small investors led by George Keleshian and Afrim Nezaj labored for nearly two years to bring an American Indoor Soccer Association franchise to Albany.  (By the time the club was purchased in September 1990, the league had changed its name to the National Professional Soccer League).  While the bid was in progress, Albany opened the $69 million Knickerbocker Arena in January 1990.  On February 18, 1990, the expansion backers promoted an AISA regular season game between the Chicago Power and the Memphis Rogues at Knickerbocker Arena to test community interest.   The game drew an announced crowd of 8,150, which was considered quite encouraging.

The summer of 1990 came and went.  The NPSL finally awarded the Albany franchise in September, leaving the unwieldy and inexperienced owners less than a month to prepare for the 1990-91 league opener.  The late start also meant that the Kick could not secure 20 home dates at Knickerbocker Arena, so the team had to augment their schedule with dates at the Glens Falls Civic Center, located 45 minutes away.

The season was a disaster from the start.  Attendance at the 15,000-seat Knickerbocker Arena was less than 2,000 per match.  On the carpet, the team was completely overmatched under Afrim Nezaj, a former minor league player and member of the Kick’s ownership group.  Nezaj was relieved of his coaching duties midway through the year, but the change didn’t help.  The Kick would finish the season with a 3-37 record and the club was outscored 646-284.  Many of the team’s experienced indoor veterans walked away when the undercapitalized owners demanded a 50% pay cut in midseason.

In February 1991, with the team on the brink of failure, Albany-based sports investor Joseph O’Hara stepped into rescue the Kick.  Over the past two years, O’Hara had built a small empire of capital region sports properties with partner Glenn Mazula. The pair owned the Albany Patroons of the Continental Basketball Association and the Albany Firebirds of the Arena Football League, both of which also played at Knickerbocker Arena. (Mazula would not be involved with O’Hara’s Kick bailout, presumably to his eternal relief).

O’Hara helped the Kick finish out the remainder of the season, although he never did enjoy a Kick win, as the club last it’s last 13 matches after he took over.  O’Hara quickly got into a dispute with the previous ownership over terms of the sale, and by summertime the two sides were headed for court.  Facing litigation and a projected mid-six figure loss, O’Hara pulled out of the NPSL in late September 1991, just weeks before training camp, forcing the league to re-work it schedule.  The league eventually sued O’Hara as well.

The litigation over the New York Kick stretched in the mid-1990’s, far outliving the brief 12-month life of the soccer club itself.


==In Memoriam==

Kick forward Carlos Salguero died of cancer on December 28, 2006.  He was 51.



AISA/NPSL Media Guides

AISA/NPSL Programs


1990-1992 Illinois Thunder

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Illinois ThunderNational Professional Soccer League (1990-1992)

Born: March 13, 1990 – AISA expansion franchise.
Died: September 1, 1992 – The Thunder relocate to Denver, CO.

Arena: Rockford MetroCentre

Team Colors:

Owner: Mike Kelegian


The Illinois Thunder were a short-lived, poorly attended indoor soccer franchise based at the Rockford MetroCentre for two seasons from 1990 to 1992.  The Thunder began life as an expansion franchise in the American Indoor Soccer Association in March 1990, but the league changed its name to the National Professional Soccer League by the time the Thunder kicked their first ball in November of the same year.

The Thunder shared the MetroCentre during the winter months with the more popular Rockford Lightning of the Continental Basketball Association.  Local real estate executive Mike Kelegian founded the team as an expansion franchise in early 1990. Former Chicago Sting star Heinz Wirtz served as Head Coach.  The Thunder had an in-state rival in the NPSL – the Chicago Power – who were coached by another former Sting star, Karl-Heinz-Granitza.

During the Thunder’s second season in the winter of 1991-1992, the club had the worst attendance in the nine-team NPSL, claiming only 1,613 fans per game for a 20-match calendar.  In September 1992, Kelegian moved his franchise to Colorado where the team was known as the Denver Thunder.

Kelegian ran out of money and stopped meeting payroll within weeks of his arrival in Denver.  The former Illinois Thunder wobbled through its one and only season in Denver as a ward of the league before folding quietly in 1993.

Indoor soccer returned to soccer two decades later when the Rockford Rampage (2008-2010) played two seasons at the MetroCentre to equally meager crowds.


==Illinois Thunder Programs on Fun While It Lasted==

Season Date Opponent Score Program Other
1990-91 11/25/1990 @ Chicago Power ?? Program Game Notes
1990-91 12/15/1990 vs. Canton Invaders L 12-10 (OT) Program


==In Memoriam==

Former Thunder owner Mike Kelegian passed away in July 2001 at age 65.



National Professional Soccer League Media Guides

National Professional Soccer League Programs


1998-1999 Florida Thundercats

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Florida ThundercatsNational Professional Soccer League (1998-1999)

Born: May 19, 1998 – NPSL expansion franchise.
Died: Postseason 1999 – The Thundercats cease operations.

Arena: National Car Rental Center (19,200)

Team Colors: Blue, Black & Silver

Owner: Milan Mandaric


The Florida Thundercats were an indoor soccer team in Sunrise, Florida that resides on our One-Year Wonders file. The Thundercats failed despite a deeply experienced management team of pro soccer investors and operators.

Financial backer Milan Mandaric owned soccer clubs in both the United States and Europe dating back to the 1970’s. He also had previous experience in the indoor game as a club owner in the defunct Major Indoor Soccer League and the Continental Indoor Soccer League. Mandaric paid a reported $400,000 expansion fee to the NPSL for the rights to the Florida franchise in May 1998 (Sports Business Journal, 10/26/1998)

General Manager Dick Berg was an experienced promoter in the NFL and the NBA and previously managed Mandaric’s outdoor clubs in the North American Soccer League during the 1970’s, the San Jose Earthquakes and the Oakland Stompers.

Head Coach Fernando Clavijo was a long-time indoor star of the 1980’s and played in the 1994 World Cup for the United States. In 1997, Clavijo coached the Seattle Seadogs to the championship of the Continental Indoor Soccer League.

The Thundercats played in the brand new National Car Rental Center in the suburbs of Fort Lauderdale. They shared the 19,000-seat building with the NHL’s Florida Panthers and sold seats only in the 8,500-seat lower bowl. The arena opened with a Celine Dion concert in October 1998 and the Thundercats followed just over a month later with their home opener, an 11-5 win over the Kansas City Attack before 6,217 fans on November 13, 1998.

Attendance plummeted quickly from there. For the season, the Thundercats averaged fewer than 2,500 fans announced for a 20-game home slate. Coach Fernando Clavijo told GoalIndoor Magazine in 2006 that Mandaric soon recognized he had been sold a bill of goods by the NPSL and Clavijo himself advised the owner to shut the team down. Midway through the 1998-99 season, the Thundercats held a fire sale of the team’s best (and most expensive) players and finished out the season with journeymen players earning $50 a game.

The Thundercats disbanded at the end of the 1998-99 season. For Mandaric, it was his third and apparently final strike with indoor soccer. At the time of this writing in 2013, Mandaric is Chairman of Sheffield Wednesday football club in England.



National Professional Soccer League Media Guides

National Professional Soccer League Programs



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