Major Indoor Soccer League Programs
Two of the lesser lights from the old Major Indoor Soccer League met at The Forum in L.A. on this winter night in January 1987 when the Los Angeles Lazers hosted the Minnesota Strikers. Both clubs were bankrolled by illustrious Major League team owners, with Dr. Jerry Buss (L.A. Lakers & Kings) backing the Lazers and Joe Robbie (Miami Dolphins) propping up the Strikers.
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.