Lively Tales About Dead Teams

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.

Owner 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 were 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 for and lost 4-1.

Internecine warfare between the Lancers owners helped sink the team’s final seasons. 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 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 at the age of 63.

 

Rochester Lancers Video

The Lancers take on the New York Giants 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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1973-1976 Miami Toros

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Miami Toros ProgramNorth American Soccer League (1973-1976)

Born: 1973 – The Miami Gatos re-brand as the Miami Toros
Moved: 1977 (Fort Lauderdale Strikers)

Stadium: The Orange Bowl (80,010)

Team Colors: Maroon & White

Owners: Angel Lorie, James Billings, Harper Sibley and Elizabeth Robbie, et al.

NASL Championships: None

 

Text coming soon…

 

Miami Toros Memorabilia

 

Links

North American Soccer League Media Guides

North American Soccer League Programs

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Written by Drew Crossley

September 7th, 2016 at 2:07 am

1974-1975 Baltimore Comets

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Baltimore CometsNorth American Soccer League (1974-1975)

Born: NASL expansion franchise
Moved: October 1975 (San Diego Jaws)

Stadiums: 

Team Colors: Maroon & Light Blue

Owners: 

NASL Championships: None

 

The Baltimore Comets were a short-lived North American Soccer League club that lasted just two seasons during the mid-1970’s. The Comets replaced two versions of the Baltimore Bays (1967-1969 and 1972-1973) on the local soccer scene.  Comets Head Coach Doug Millward also coached the 1960’s version of the Bays and six members of the Comets’ 1974 opening day roster were ex-Bays players.

Baltimore CometsThe Comets were competitive in 1974. The club posted a 10-8-2 record in its expansion season and qualified for the playoffs. Fullback Geoff Butler and striker Peter Silvester earned NASL First Team All-Star honors. Silvester earned league Most Valuable Player honors after scoring 14 goals in 18 appearances. The Boston Minutemen eliminated the Comets 1-0 in the playoff quarterfinal on August 15th, 1974.

The Comets struggled financially from the outset. The Comets team put puny crowds into 45,000-seat Memorial Stadium. An announced crowd of just 4,120 showed up for the club’s home opener in 1975. Less than a month later Memorial Stadium authorities evicted the Comets for missed rent payments. The Comets were forced to move the rest of their 1975 home schedule to Burdick Field at Towson State University.

The Comets finished in last place (5th) in the NASL’s Eastern Division in 1975 with a 9-13 mark. Baltimore’s attendance of 2,641 per game was worst in the 20-team NASL.  In October 1975, San Jose car dealer Ken Keegan purchased the Comets and moved the franchise to San Diego where they became the San Diego Jaws.

After several further moves and name changes, the franchise that started out as the Baltimore Comets became the San Diego Sockers in 1978. The Sockers became an indoor soccer dynasty as the American pro soccer scene shifted indoors during the 1980’s. The franchise played on for nearly two decades, finally closing its doors in 1996.

Baltimore Comets

 

Baltimore Comets Memorabilia

During the 1974 season, the Baltimore Comets published cheap-looking 8-page black-and-white pamphlets for match programs. In 1975 the Comets, along with the rest of the NASL, switched to an attractive magazine format called KICK which blended local and national league content.

The Comets produced a media guide in 1974. Presumably one exists for the 1975 season as well, but we’ve never come across one in more than a quarter century of collecting.

 

Links

North American Soccer League Media Guides

North American Soccer League Programs

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Written by Drew Crossley

September 4th, 2016 at 12:05 pm

1967-1972 Atlanta Chiefs

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Atlanta ChiefsNational Professional Soccer League (1967)
North American Soccer League (1968-1972)

Born: 1966 – NPSL founding franchise
Re-Branded: 1973 (Atlanta Apollos)

Stadiums:

Team Colors: Red, White & Blue

Owners: Atlanta Braves, Inc. (William Bartholomay, et al.)

NPSL Championships: None
NASL Champions: 1968

 

Text coming soon…

 

Atlanta Chiefs Memorabilia

 

Links

National Professional Soccer League Programs

North American Soccer League Media Guides

North American Soccer League Programs

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1984 Charlotte Gold

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1984 United Soccer League Media GuideUnited Soccer League (1984)

Born: April 1, 1984 – USL founding franchise
Folded: Postseason 1984

Stadium: American Legion Memorial Stadium (24,500)

Team Colors: Carolina Blue & Charlotte Gold

Owner: C. Richard Melvin

USL Championships: None

 

The Charlotte Gold played one season of lower-division men’s professional soccer in the summer of 1984. The franchise was a successor/replacement for the more popular Carolina Lightnin’ team that played in the 2nd Division American Soccer League from 1981 to 1983. The Lightnin’ folded along with the rest of the ASL during the winter of 1983-84.

The United Soccer League quickly rose from the ashes of the ASL and Charlotte was awarded the league’s ninth and final franchise on April Fools’ Day 1984. The Gold were formed just six weeks prior to their first match on May 19th, 1984.

Former U.S. National Team captain Dave D’Errico was the Gold’s head coach. Charlotte finished the 1984 USL season with an 11-13 record and narrowly missed the playoffs. Following the season, seven of the nine USL clubs folded, including the Charlotte Gold.  The league itself went out of business midway through the 1985 season.

Fun While It Lasted is looking to buy any and all memorabilia from the Charlotte Gold, or acquire photos or images of the team. Post to the comments if you can help.

 

Links

United Soccer League Media Guides

United Soccer League Programs

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Written by Drew Crossley

August 30th, 2016 at 11:50 am