Born: 1981 – ASL expansion franchise
Folded: Postseason 1984
Stadium: Holleder Stadium (20,000)
Team Colors: Orange and Black
Owners: Eugene Quatro, Jr., et al.
The Rochester Flash soccer club – great moniker for a company town like Rochester where Kodak was king. The Flash were formed in 1981 to fill the void left by the departed Rochester Lancers soccer team (1967-1980). The Lancers played in the North American Soccer League, the top level of pro soccer in the U.S. at the time. After winning a league title in 1970, the Lancers settled into a long stretch of mediocrity but their membership in the NASL meant that legendary players such as Pele and Franz Beckenbauer visited the Holleder Stadium turf during the late 1970’s.
For all the NASL’s problems (the league would fold in 1984), it was a paragon of stability compared to the ramshackle 2nd Division American Soccer League, which the Flash joined in 1981. Rochester’s opening match was in New Bedford, Massachusetts against the New England Sharks, another 1981 expansion franchise. The Sharks would be out of business after 17 games, failing to complete their regular season schedule. This kind of midseason catastrophe was par for the course in the ASL.
The Sharks were also the Flash’s opponent when the team made its home debut at Holleder Stadium on June 7th, 1981. More than 5,000 fans turned out – a number not too far below what the Lancers typically attracted for much of the 1970’s. Under Head Coach Don Lalka, the Flash finished the 1981 season 11-12-5 and backed into a one-game playoff against the Carolina Lightnin’. It was a Jekyll and Hyde performance, as the Flash were virtually unbeatable at home, the only blemish being a 2-1 loss to New York United at Holleder in July, but inept on the road. The playoff game was down in Charlotte, North Carolina and the Flash followed script by losing 2-0. Ukrainian striker Mike Laschev, one of several Flash players who played indoor soccer during the winter months for the Buffalo Stallions of the MISL, led the team in scoring with 13 goals and 5 assists.
At the end of the 1981 season, the Flash courted controversy by sub-letting Holleder Stadium for a planned rugby match between an American team and the touring Springboks national team from South Africa. South Africa was deep in the grip of Apartheid and the divestment movement in the United States was just starting to gain traction in the early 1980’s. The Flash ultimately cancelled the match, but not before the episode gain the team the broadest national press coverage it would ever receive.
The 1982 season on the field was largely a repeat of the previous campaign. Laschev did not return, but another moonlighting Stallions player, Ernie Buriano, picked up the scoring slack with 9 goals and 6 assists. The club again made the playoffs with a losing record (10-15-2) thanks in part to the ASL’s ever-dwindling membership, which was down to just seven clubs in 1982. Once again, the Flash ran into the Carolina Lightnin’ in the first round and were quickly dispatched.
The Flash went dark for the 1983 season, which turned out to be the last campaign for the 50-year old American Soccer League. But in February 1984, a handful of refugee clubs from the now-defunct ASL banded together to form the United Soccer League. Improbably, the Flash returned from oblivion to stage a third season in the USL in the spring of 1984.
The Flash finished the 1984 USL season with the worst record in the 9-team circuit (7-17) and quietly disbanded for good.
Pro soccer returned to Rochester twelve years later with the formation of the Rochester Raging Rhinos in 1996. The Rhinos were so popular during the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, that the city of Rochester was briefly considered a strong candidate for a Major League Soccer expansion franchise. Those days are long gone and the Rhinos have since fallen on hard times, but they continue to play.
==Rochester Flash Programs on Fun While It Lasted==
|1982||7/17/1982||@ Detroit Express||??||Program|
|1984||6/10/1984||vs. Buffalo Storm||W 3-1||Program|
|1984||6/12/1984||@ New York Nationals||L 3-1||Program|