This simple 6-page black-and-white match program arrived in the post from England today. This April 1984 international friendly saw the Tampa Bay Rowdies take on Leeds United during a brief pre-season tune up tour of England. It was one of the final overseason exhibition games played by a North American Soccer League club before the NASL (1968-1984) went out of business in early 1985.
Leeds was a 2nd Division English club at the time, but they dispatched coach Rodney Marsh’s young Rowdies squad with ease, 4-1. Rowdies rookie striker Roy Wegerle scored the lone goal for the visitors. Wegerle also turned out to be a bright spot in a grim last place campaign for the Rowdies in 1984. He scored 9 goals and won the final NASL Rookie-of-the-Year award.
Leeds star Peter Barnes, who earned 22 caps for England between 1977 and 1982, is pictured on the cover of the match day program. Barnes would leave England in the late 1980’s to wander the four corners of the world in search of football employment. One of his stops was Tampa Bay, where played in a dozen or so games for the Rowdies in the summer of 1990. By that point, the Rowdies were nearing the end, playing in the lower budget American Soccer League, which was a far cry from what the NASL had been during the Rowdies heyday.
Whatever combination of business acumen or good fortune that led Buss and Robbie to collect NBA world championship and Super Bowl trophies, it never carried over to either man’s investments in pro soccer. Buss’ Lazers routinely had the worst attendance in the MISL, but the real estate investor seemed content to fund the Lazers (and other minor arena sports at the Forum) as a sort of sports management academy for his children. Robbie’s Strikers enjoyed some popularity as an outdoor soccer team in Fort Lauderdale in the late 1970’s, but the luster wore off when he moved the team to Minnesota and switched to the indoor game in 1984. Robbie was bleeding millions in Minneapolis and was less able to stick things out in the MISL than Buss – Robbie’s resources were stretched by the need to privately finance the construction of Joe Robbie Stadium for the Dolphins in Miami.
In the first weeks of 1987, the Lazers were en route to their third last place finish in five years of existence. Strangely, the team had never changed coaches, sticking with original hire Peter Wall even after a lifeless 13-35 campaign in 1985-86. This match against Minnesota would turn out to be the night that finally cost Wall his job. The Lazers had lost 13 of 16, including a humiliating shutout (the first in club history) the night before in Dallas.
Minnesota’s English sniper Alan Willey notched a hat trick in the first half as the Strikers leapt out to an early lead. Chris Dangerfield, Hector Marinaro and Mike Jeffries piled on the second half and Minnesota won the game 6-4. The Lazers dropped to 6-14 on the season and the Buss family finally relieved Wall a few days later.
Wall’s replacement, a recently retired player named Keith Tozer, would go on to become the all-time winningest coach in indoor soccer history. But that winning wouldn’t benefit the Lazers much – the team never won another playoff game before folding in June of 1989. The Strikers, meanwhile, went on to play in the MISL championship series in the spring of 1987 (their only good indoor season turned out to be a great one), but nearly folded anyway because of financial problems. They ended up hanging on for one more season thanks to a “Save Our Strikers” season ticket campaign, but folded for good in June of 1988.
Not truly a defunct franchise, but rather an abandoned brand identity from the early years of Major League Soccer. The Dallas Burn were one of 10 founding franchises for MLS in 1996. The club plays on today as “FC Dallas” following a 2004 brand re-boot that preceded the opening of the team’s soccer-specific stadium, Pizza Hut Park, in 2005.
Dallas’ greatest accomplished during the Burn era (1996-2004) was to capture the U.S. Open Cup in 1997. The Burn defeated defending Open Cups champs D.C. United on penalty kicks on October 29, 1997 at Carroll Stadium in Indianapolis. In MLS play, the Burn qualified for the playoffs in each of their first seven seasons, but were knocked out in the opening round five times. The Burn’s deepest playoff runs came in 1997 and 1999 under Head Coach Dave Dir, when they reached the MLS Cup semi-finals.
Off the field, the Burn were considered a weak point for MLS as the young league’s financial losses accumulated in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. At the end of MLS’ sixth season in 2001, the Burn were one of two franchises still owned directly by the league, along with the Tampa Bay Mutiny. According to the Sports Business Journal, the Burn lost about $3M per year at this time and Dallas’ continued survival in the league depended on the willingness of other MLS team owners (still facing the substantial deficits of their own clubs) to continue underwriting the red ink.
When word got out that MLS was looking at contracting the 12-team league in late 2001, fans and media speculated that the Burn were a likely vicitim. When the axe came down in January 2002, however, MLS chose to drop its two Florida franchises instead.
The franchise’s salvation and bottoming out happened more or less simultaneously in 2003. After seven years as a ward of the league, Hunt Sports Group stepped to operate the team. HSG, which already owned MLS’ Columbus Crew and Kansas City Wizards clubs, was headed by longtime soccer patron Lamar Hunt. Hunt previously owned (and lost many millions on) the Dallas Tornado of the North American Soccer League from 1967 until 1981. While the Hunts’ arrival gave the Burn a stable future, one of their first moves was to pull the team out of the Cotton Bowl and play the 2003 season at Dragon Stadium, a suburban high school stadium with artificial turf and no beer sales. The move, intended to be temporary while the Burn worked on plans for a proper soccer stadium in Frisco, Texas, did not play well with fans generally and, specifically, helped to crater the club’s Hispanic fan base.
After one season at Dragon Stadium, and with the 2005 opening of Pizza Hut Park in Frisco on the horizon, the Burn pulled an about face and moved back to the Cotton Bowl for one final campaign in 2004. Two-thirds of the way through the 2004 season, Hunt Sports Group announced the re-branding of the club as “FC Dallas” to coincide with the opening of Pizza Hut Park the following spring.
At the dawn of the 80’s, Forest was a European power under the direction of Brian Clough. They were also a popular and frequent challenger of NASL teams for friendly matches on both sides of the Atlantic. A July 1980 exhibition between these same two clubs at Vancouver’s Empire Stadium attracted 28,710 fans and resulted in a 1-1 draw.
This match at Nottingham’s City Ground fourteen months later resulted in another draw, this time 2-2. Peter Lorimer scored both goals for the ‘Caps on penalty kicks. John Hodge and Mark Proctor tallied for Forest. This game was the 3rd stop on the Whitecaps’ 1981 postseason tour of Europe, which also saw the Canadians defeat Malmo of Sweden and lose to Ajax of Holland and Avellino and Napoli of Italy.
Weirdly, Nottingham Forest issued programs with two different covers for this match. The more common one (ebay.co.uk usually has a few available on any given day) is pictured below. Not sure who the Forest player is on the cover? Maybe Mark Proctor? Leave a comment if you know.
The Sacramento Knights were an indoor soccer team that played for nearly a decade under the management of successive ownership groups of the NBA’s Sacramento Kings franchise. The basic details of this club are mostly indistinguishable from hundreds of other defunct teams here on FWIL – team forms, muddles along in obscurity for several years and then is quietly euthanized. So before running through those mundane details, I’ll just tell you the strangest thing in the Knights file:
Ex-Knights General Manager Hubert Rotteveel, once a member of UCLA’s 1985 national champion soccer team, became a bank robber after the demise of the Knights. And not a great one. On June 30, 2010, a bike helmet and spandex-clad Rotteveel robbed two Sacramento area banks with a BB gun. He was caught cycling away from the second bank when the dye pack in his loot exploded in front of a patrol car. Rotteveel, by most accounts a well-liked and respected executive during his soccer years, is eligible for release in 2014, but still faces additional fraud charges related his former real estate business.
ANYWAY … What happened to the Knights? Original owner Jim Thomas purchased the club as a founding member of the Continental Indoor Soccer League in September 1992, a few months after he acquired control of the Kings. The CISL, which existed from 1993 until 1997, initially attracted a number of NBA ownership groups besides Thomas and the Kings, but enthusiasm for the league and the sport of indoor soccer declined in the mid-1990’s. NBA owners began to look to the new WNBA to fill summer dates in their arenas instead. In addition to the Knights, the Sacramento Kings ownership also operated the WNBA’s Sacramento Monarchs during the summer months. Coincidentally or not, the debut season of the WNBA in 1997 also proved to be the final year for the CISL, which folded in December 1997.
The Knights did play on, however, joining several other CISL refuges in pair of lower-profile successor leagues starting in 1998.
When Thomas sold controlling interest in the Kings to Maloof Sports & Entertainment in 1999, the Knights were thrown in with the deal. The Maloofs operated the Knights for three more seasons through 2001 before folding the team.