The Toronto Falcons played two seasons of pro soccer at Varsity Stadium during the late 1960’s. The roots of the team traced back to the Toronto Italia-Falcons of the Eastern Canada Professional Soccer League. Italia-Falcons owner Joe Peters backed the promotion of the team into the ambitious National Professional Soccer League (NPSL) in 1967. The NPSL was one of two start-up North American pro leagues that launched in 1967. The NPSL’s rival, the United Soccer Association (USA), also featured a Toronto entry – Toronto City, owned by future Toronto Maple Leafs owner Steve Stavro.
Peters hired former Barcelona and Atletico Madrid manager Ferdinand Daucik to coach the Falcons in 1967. Daucik came as a package deal with members of his soccer-playing family, including son Yanko Daucik, son-in-law Ladislav Kubala and Kubala’s son Branko. “Laddie” Kubala, as Falcons officials referred to the 40-year old Hungarian, was one of the greatest strikers to ever play for FC Barcelona. He would score 5 goals in 19 appearances with the Falcons in 1967 in his final playing campaign. But it was Yanko Daucik who lit up the NPSL with a league best 20 goals in 1967.
Despite Yanko Daucik’s offensive heroics, the 1967 Falcons finished out of the NPSL playoff picture with a 10-17-5 record.
The USA and the NPSL merged to form the North American Soccer League at the end of 1967. As part of the deal, the new league bought out Toronto City owner Steve Stavro for $160,000, clearing the marketplace for Joe Peters and the Falcons.
Ladislav Kubala replaced Ferdinand Daucik as club manager for the 1968 season. Yanko Daucik showed flashes of his 1967 scoring touch with five goals, but managed to appear in just four matches in 1968. The team improved slightly to 13-13-6, but missed the playoffs once again.
The Falcons folded after the 1968 season, along with 11 of the other 16 NASL franchises. The league managed to survive with just five club in 1969 and returned to Toronto with the formation of the Toronto Metros in 1971.
The Boston Beacons were a One-Year Wonder that played at Fenway Park during the summer of 1968. The club was owned by a group of prominent Bostonians, including philanthropist Stephen Mugar, Celtics general manager Red Auerbach and Boston Red Sox executive vice president Dick O’Connell.
The Beacons originally formed in 1967 as a franchise in the start-up National Professional Soccer League (NPSL). But the Beacons delayed their entry into the NPSL until 1968. In the meantime, the club hosted a few 1967 NPSL regular season matches at Fenway in 1967 to generate buzz for the new league.
Another pro soccer start-up, the United Soccer Association (USA), also launched in 1967. The USA also had a Boston franchise, the Boston Shamrock Rovers, who played at the Manning Bowl in Lynn, Massachusetts. Boston Bruins owner Weston Adams and his family back the Rovers financially. Unlike the Beacons, the Rovers fielded a team and played a full season in 1967.
In December 1967, the USA and NPSL merged to form the North American Soccer League (NASL). The new league now had two Boston franchises. The Rovers fell by the wayside and the Beacons became Boston’s sole pro soccer franchise when the NASL kicked off in April 1968.
The Beacons lone season in Boston was a flop. The team failed to qualify for the NASL playoffs with a 9-17-6 record. The team was a bust at the box office as well. The Beacons drew just 64,064 for 16 dates at Fenway, for a meager 4,004 average. Beacons ownership announced the club would not return in late October 1968.
Boston Beacons Memorabilia
Beacons present NPSL Action @ Fenway Park. July 7, 1967
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.
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
1971 Rochester Lancers Media Guide
1973 Rochester Lancers Program
1974 Lancers Program
1975 Lancers Media Guide
Lancers vs. New York Cosmos. June 27, 1975
Lancers vs. Washington Diplomats. August 1, 1976
Lancers vs. Dallas Tornado. July 18, 1976
1977 Lancers Media Guide
Lancers vs. New York Cosmos. July 15, 1977
Lancers vs. Toronto Metros-Croatia. August 13, 1977
1979 Lancers Media Guide
Lancers vs. Atlanta Chiefs. May 20, 1979
Lancers vs. California Surf. June 3, 1979
Lancers vs. Fort Lauderdale Strikers. July 14, 1979
Lancers vs. Minnesota Kicks. July 20, 1979
1980 Lancers Pocket Schedule
1980 Lancers Preseason Prospectus
1980 Lancers Media Guide
Lancers vs. Washington Diplomats. June 17, 1980
Lancers vs. Chicago Sting. July 13, 1980
Branko Segota 1980
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.
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.
The 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 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.
1974 Comets Media Guide
Comets vs. Philadelphia Atoms. May 10, 1974
Comets vs. San Jose Earthquakes. May 24, 1974
Comets vs. St. Louis Stars. June 21, 1974
Baltimore Comets vs. Los Angeles Aztecs. July 3, 1974