Lively Tales About Dead Teams

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January 24, 1987 – Los Angeles Strikers vs. Minnesota Strikers

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David Brcic Los Angeles LazersLos Angeles Lazers vs. Minnesota Strikers
January 24, 1987
The Forum
Attendance: 6,454

Major Indoor Soccer League Programs
32 pages

 

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.

Alan Willey Minnesota StrikersIn 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.

 

==Links==

Los Angeles Lazers Home Page

Minnesota Strikers Home Page

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Written by AC

September 15th, 2014 at 3:14 am

March 27, 1988 – Los Angeles Lazers vs. San Diego Sockers

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Chico BorjaLos Angeles Lazers vs. San Diego Sockers
March 27, 1988
The Forum
Attendance: ?

Major Indoor Soccer League Programs
68 pages

 

The Major Indoor Soccer League’s long-running Southern California rivalry in action here in this game from March of 1988.  Actually, it wasn’t much of a rivalry.  The San Diego Sockers won the MISL championship five times during the seven seasons that the Los Angeles Lazers existed.  Meanwhile, the Lazers only had one winning season in their history.

But this was that year.  The 1987-88 Lazers were pretty damn good, led by Ecuadorian forward Chico Borja, pictured on the cover of the evening’s MISSILE Magazine game program.  Borja set the Lazers’ franchise record for scoring with 47 goals and 51 assists in 54 matches.

The best indication of how strong the Keith Tozer-coached Lazers team was this year was the damage they did to the Sockers.  This was the seventh and final regular season meeting of the clubs and the Lazers ripped San Diego 8-2.  It was the Sockers’ worst loss in four years and gave Los Angeles a 4-3 series victory for the season.  The Sockers (42-14) lost only 10 other matches-to the entire rest of the league.

Borja scored a goal and an assist.  L.A.’s big star on the night was Cha Cha Namdar, a former Socker who notched two goals and added three assists.

The playoffs brought both clubs back to their traditional roles in the league.  The Lazers flopped badly, losing to the Kansas City Comets in a three-game first round sweep.  The Sockers won the championship, launching a run of five straight league titles.

After the 1987-88 season the MISL nearly folded (the Sockers went into bankruptcy, but emerged somewhat miraculously).  Lazers owner Dr. Jerry Buss hung in, but dumped many of the club’s larger salaries, including Borja who departed after a single exemplary season.

 

==Links==

Los Angeles Lazers Home Page

San Diego Sockers Home Page

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Written by AC

May 4th, 2014 at 12:56 am

April 28, 1985 – Los Angeles Lazers vs. Baltimore Blast

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Dave MacWilliams Baltimore BlastLos Angeles Lazers vs. Baltimore Blast
MISL Quarterfinal Playoffs, Game 3
April 28, 1985
The Forum
Attendance: 4,673

Major Indoor Soccer League Programs
60 pages

 

This is yet another pull from the huge collection of Los Angeles Lazers indoor soccer programs we picked up from a California sports museum earlier this month.  The third and final match of a best-of-five Major Indoor Soccer League quarterfinal playoff series between the Lazers and the defending champion Baltimore Blast at the Fabulous Forum.

Dave MacWilliams of the Blast was pictured on the cover of the Missile Magazine game program for this game and the choice was prophetic.  MacWilliams was the MISL’s leading American-born scorer during the 1984-85 season and he netted a hat trick against the Lazers here in Game 3 to spark Baltimore to 5-4 win and a sweep of the best-of-five series.

Another notable player in this game was the Lazers’ 23-year old rookie goalkeeper Tim Harris, who drew the start for this win-or-go-home elimination match.  Harris was born in nearby Torrance and played collegiately at UCLA.  He earned one cap for the U.S. National Team in 1985, but he had the misfortune to come into pro soccer during a particularly grim period for the American game, just as the outdoor North American Soccer League was drawing its final breaths.  Harris played for five seasons, including three with the Lazers from 1984 to 1987.  During that time there was no national outdoor league and American players were not in demand overseas.  Indoor soccer was basically the only professional option for American players born in the early 1960’s like Harris.

The Lazers went out of business in 1989.  Several years later the club’s former owner, the late Dr. Jerry Buss, hired Harris to work in the front office for his NBA team, the Los Angeles Lakers.  Today Harris is the Chief Operating Officer of the Lakers.

 

 

==Downloads==

April 28, 1985 Baltimore Blast Roster

April 28, 1985 Los Angeles Lazers Roster

 

==Links==

Baltimore Blast Home Page

Los Angeles Lazers Home Page

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Written by AC

February 27th, 2014 at 12:26 am

November 5, 1982 – Los Angeles Lazers vs. Phoenix Inferno

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Los Angeles Lazers vs. Phoenix Inferno
November 5, 1982
The Forum
Attendance: 6,836

Major Indoor Soccer League Programs
48 pages

 

The four-year old Major Indoor Soccer League debuted in Los Angeles on this night in early November 1982.  Dr. Jerry Buss’ expansion Los Angeles Lazers club shared the familiar Purple & Gold color scheme of his L.A. NBA and NHL franchises.  Unfortunately, the Lazers acquitted themselves much more like the Kings than the Showtime Lakers during their seven season run.

The Lazers raced out to a 4-0 lead over the visiting Phoenix Inferno on goals by Poli Garcia, Don Tobin and a brace from Emilio Romero.  Garcia went on to become the Lazers’ all-time leading scorer.  Tobin went on to have the most remarkable hair in the league.  It was a thrilling introduction to the fast-paced sport of indoor soccer for the 6,836 on hand at the Forum.

The Lazers’ early scoring flurry was also a dose of false advertising by a team that would turn out to be the MISL’s worst.  The Lazers went on to lose their first nine matches 1982 and finished their inaugural season with a grim 8-40 record.  Buss’ club would place last in its division four times in seven years of existence.

In typical Lazers fashion, the team gave away the lead in the second half.  Down 5-4, Phoenix pulled goalkeeper Blagoje Tamindzic for an extra attacker with 1:38 remaining in regulation.  (One of many strategies that indoor soccer lifted from ice hockey).  30 seconds later Damir Sutevski pumped a shot past the Lazers’ Gary Allison to knot the score at 5-5.  Eight minutes into sudden death overtime, Sutevski struck again to hand the Inferno a 6-5 victory.

 

==Links==

Los Angeles Lazers Home Page

Phoenix Inferno Home Page

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Written by AC

February 15th, 2014 at 1:42 pm

February 14, 1987 – Los Angeles Lazers vs. New York Express

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Los Angeles Express vs. New York Express
February 14, 1987
The Forum
Attendance: 3,293

Major Indoor Soccer League Programs
52 pages

 

Valentine’s Day 1987.  The end of the line for the Major Indoor Soccer League’s bankrupt New York Express expansion franchise.

The Long Island-based club was stocked with over-the-hill former New York Cosmos outdoor soccer stars such as Shep Messing (also club President and part-owner), Mark Liveric, Rick Davis and Hubert Birkenmeier.  The Express sputtered into L.A. with a record of 2-23 – the worst winning percentage in league history.  The team’s dubious business plan was even worse – it depended largely on the outcome a public stock offering.  The Express couldn’t interest people in buying tickets, let alone stock shares.

Three days before this match, the Los Angeles Lazers hosted the league All-Star Game at the Forum.  During the All-Star Break the Express revealed that they were on the verge of collapse and tapping emergency credit lines to make the player payroll.  The team’s staff weren’t so lucky – those that were left hadn’t been paid in a month.  You can read the full account of the club’s collapse here.

But on the carpet, this Valentine’s Day match has to be considered the Express’ finest hour.  They at least had a fighting chance against the Los Angeles Lazers.  At 6-18 and riding an eight-game losing skid, the Lazers were nearly as inept as the visiting New Yorkers.  The Angelenos were working under the direction of a new Head Coach, Keith Tozer, who replaced the fired Peter Wall a week earlier.  Tozer was early in his coaching career on this night, but he would go on to become the winningest coach in the history of the indoor game.

The hosts got out to a 4-1 lead, courtesy of a pair of goals from Zizinho and Stuart Lee.  But they blew it in the second half.  33-year old war horse Mark Liveric, playing for his 11th team in a vagabond career that included three separate stints with the Cosmos, scored two goals to spark the comeback.  Alex Tarnoczi got the late equalizer for New York to knot the score at 5-5 and send the match to overtime.  One minute into the sudden death period, Liveric beat another former Cosmos – Lazers goalkeeper David Brcic – to complete his hat trick and win the game for the Express.   It was the third (and last) win in franchise history and the only road victory.

The following day the Express drove three hours south to play their final match against the powerhouse San Diego Sockers.  You can watch it here.  They lost and dropped to 3-23.  It was the last game of Liveric’s pro career.  Two days later the league pulled the plug on the Express and the club folded without completing its debut season.

 

==Downloads==

2011 Fun While It Lasted interview with New York Express PR Director Micah Buchdahl.

 

==Links==

Los Angeles Lazers Home Page

New York Express Home Page

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Written by AC

February 12th, 2014 at 3:45 am

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