Lively Tales About Dead Teams

Archive for the ‘Minnesota Strikers’ tag

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

leave a comment

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.



Los Angeles Lazers Home Page

Minnesota Strikers Home Page


Written by AC

September 15th, 2014 at 3:14 am

January 12, 1985 – New York Cosmos vs. Minnesota Strikers

one comment

New York Cosmos MISLNew York Cosmos vs. Minnesota Strikers
January 12, 1985
Brendan Byrne Arena
Attendance: 10,142

Major Indoor Soccer League Programs
40 pages


Another find from the estate of the late Newark Star-Ledger sportswriter Ike Kuhns, who covered the New York Cosmos soccer beat for years.  This program comes from one of the final competitive soccer games the Cosmos ever played – an indoor match at the Brendan Byrne Arena in January 1985.

By this point, the club was owned by former player Giorgio Chinaglia and more or less out of money.  The big international superstars and the large crowds were long gone.  Attendance bottomed out a few weeks earlier when an announced gathering of 2,122 turned out at 19,000-seat Brendan Byrne Arena for an indoor match against the Las Vegas Americans. On the field, they were less than mediocre at 6 wins and 11 losses.

This night was the highlight of the Cosmos lone truncated season in the Major Indoor Soccer League.  A season-high crowd of 10,142 turned out at Brendan Byrne, mostly schoolchildren and youth soccer kids lured by steeply discounted tickets.  The opponent was the Minnesota Strikers, a fellow refugee from outdoor soccer and the all-but-dead North American Soccer League.  The Cosmos and the Strikers had met 31 times outdoors since 1977, but this was the first time they ever played each other indoors.

Chinaglia attempted to rouse himself to the occasion with mixed results.  The NASL’s all-time leading scorer grabbed a microphone and thanked the crowd for showing up before the game.  He also dressed for the match.  Chinaglia, who retired in 1983, dressed and played in four MISL matches that winter in a vain attempt to rekindle some of the old Cosmos glamour and magic, but it wasn’t happening.  He would watch the entire match from the bench.

“I invited <the large crowd> and I wanted to be on the bench, but I was really too tired to help much on the field,” Chinaglia acknowledged to Kuhns and the rest of the Cosmos’ vastly diminished press corps after the match.

Mark Liveric New York CosmosAlthough Chinaglia remained bolted to the bench, it was the still the Cosmos dwindling corps of old-timers who sparked the team on this night.  Mark Liveric played for the Cosmos in 1979 and 1980.  Just a week earlier, he returned to the Cosmos after a five-year absence, after the team purchased his contract from the Kansas City Comets.  This was Liveric’s third game back and he opened the scoring in the 13th minute with a power play goal from 30-feet out.

Cosmos fans were also treated to a rare appearance in goal from Hubert Birkenmeier.  Birkenmeier, who joined the ‘Mos in 1979, did more coaching than playing these days.  He had appeared in only 3 of the club’s previous 17 matches after being unseated by his long-time understudy David Brcic.  Tonight, he got a rare start and kept the Cosmos in the match, as Minnesota outshot New York 48-22.  In the second half, with the score knotted at 2-2, it was veteran midfielder Angelo DiBernardo who tallied twice to delight the large crowd and give the Cosmos a rare win by the score of 4-3.

“When you see a crowd like that, you just want to try a little harder,” Kuhns quoted DiBernado afterwards.  “When you take a shot, even if it misses, and you hear a roar, you feel like you’re playing somewhere and being watched.”

The Cosmos played one six more competitive matches in New Jersey after this night.  Six weeks later, on February 22, 1985, the Cosmos withdrew from the Major Indoor Soccer League during the league’s All-Star Break.  The team was reportedly $1.5 million in debt and mired in the cellar with an 11-22 record.  They became the first MISL club to ever fail to complete  a season.  A planned 18-game international exhibition schedule at Giants Stadium faltered after a handful of poorly attended dates and the team shut its doors in July 1985 after 15 seasons.



January 12, 1985 New York Cosmos Game Notes Package

January 12, 1985 Minnesota Strikers Game Notes Package



Minnesota Strikers Home Page

New York Cosmos Home Page


1984-1988 Minnesota Strikers

leave a comment

Minnesota StrikersNorth American Soccer League (1984)
Major Indoor Soccer League (1984-1988)

Born: November 30, 1983 – Ft. Lauderdale Strikers relocate to Minnesota
Folded: June 22, 1988

Stadium: The Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome (62,220)

Arena: The Met Center (15,184)

Owners: Joe & Elizabeth Robbie


The Fort Lauderdale Strikers (1977-1983) of the North American Soccer League moved to Minneapolis in December 1983, looking for a city with a suitable building for indoor soccer and hoping to rekindle the tremendous fan support generated by the NASL’s Minnesota Kicks (1976-1981) during the late 1970’s. Club owner Joe Robbie had deep pockets – he was also the owner of the NFL’s Miami Dolphins.

The Kicks averaged over 30,000 fans per match in 1977, making the club one of the most popular in the history of American professional soccer.  But that was at the old outdoor Metropolitan Stadium, which closed in 1981 shortly after the Kicks went out of business.   The Strikers would play their “outdoor” soccer indoors, in the much maligned Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome.  The Strikers drew an average of 14,263 for twelve outdoor (ahem) matches in the summer of 1984, which was 2nd best in the floundering NASL, but a far cry from the peaks of the Kicks era.

Tino Lettieri Minnesota StrikersIn August 1984, the Strikers accepted an invitation to switch to the Major Indoor Soccer League, along with the three other NASL clubs.  The NASL folded a few months later.  The Strikers were now an indoor soccer-only club and they would play in the wintertime at The Met Center, home of the NHL’s Minnesota North Stars.  Indoor soccer really never drew in Minnesota – the Strikers would last in the MISL for four seasons, but the team was perennially among the worst box office performers in the league.  The Robbies considered folding the club on several occasions and finally did so in June 1988 after years of red ink.

The Strikers high point came in the spring of 1986, when the club made a run to the MISL championship series.  A bandwagon formed during the team’s playoff run, and the team briefly became a hot ticket in Minneapolis, packing large crowds into the Met Center during the postseason.  The Strikers ultimately lost the championship series to the MISL’s dynasty club, the San Diego Sockers.

Much of the Strikers’ national publicity during their Minnesota years came thanks to eccentric goalkeeper and bird enthusiast Tino Lettieri.  Lettieri, who played for the Kicks from 1977 to 1981, owned quite a few real parrots. But he was best known for “Ozzie” (pictured with Tino at left), the stuffed toy parrot he kept tucked inside his goal during games, first outdoors in the NASL and later indoors in the MISL.  The tradition continued until 1985, when an otherwise entirely forgettable MISL Commissioner named Francis Dale earned the league national headlines by banning Ozzie from the league’s nets.


Minnesota Strikers Memorabilia


In Memoriam

Joe Robbie passed away on January 7, 1990 at the age of 73.

Elizabeth Robbie passed a year after her husband in November 1991.

English defender Barry Wallace, who played from the Strikers from 1984 to 1985, passed away of cancer at age 47 in 2006.


Minnesota Strikers Video

Strikers vs. San Diego Sockers. 1986 MISL Championship Series




1984 Minnesota Strikers NASL Results & Attendance

1987-88 MISL Rule Book & Schedule



Major Indoor Soccer League Media Guides

Major Indoor Soccer League Programs

January 22, 1988 – Chicago Sting vs. Minnesota Strikers

one comment

Frank Klopas Chicago StingChicago Sting vs. Minnesota Strikers
January 22, 1988
The Rosemont Horizon
Attendance: 5,134

Major Indoor Soccer League Programs
48 pages


Late era match between two long-time North American Soccer League (1968-1984) outdoor clubs, both very much on their last legs playing indoors in the winter of 1988.  The Chicago Sting beat the Minnesota Strikers 3-2 on this night at the Rosemont Horizon in Chicago.

Chicago favorite Frank Klopas is pictured on the program cover.  Just 21 years old at the time, he was already in his fourth pro season with the Sting, having signed with the club directly out of Chicago’s Mather High School in 1984.  Klopas would later join the U.S. National Team and would return to Chicago a decade later to finish his career as a member of Major League Soccer’s Chicago Fire in 1998 and 1999.

Sting owner Lee Stern formed the club way back in 1975 as an NASL expansion franchise.  13 seasons was an almost unfathomable level of commitment for an American pro soccer owner of the era.  The Sting never drew particularly well outdoors during the NASL era, when they moved all over Chicago from game to game, splitting time between Comiskey Park, Soldier Field and Wrigley Field.  But the team did experience a renaissance playing in the NASL’s wintertime indoor league in the early 1980’s at the old Chicago Stadium downtown.  Between 1981 and 1985, the Sting drew ten game crowds in excess of 15,000 .

When the NASL folded in 1984, Stern was one of four league owners who took his club over to the Major Indoor Soccer League to continue as an indoor-only team.  Fan interest tailed off noticeably in 1985 and then nosedived in 1986 when Stern moved the Sting out of downtown to the suburban Rosemont Horizon.  Average attendance for the 1986-87 season was 5,879 per match – barely half of the average crowds just two years earlier (10,628).

The Sting made one last all-in bet on indoor soccer heading into the 1987-88 season.  Lee Stern brought on an investment partner in advertising executive Lou Weisbach and a new front office CEO in former Chicago Bulls VP of Marketing David Rosenberg.  The Sting bolstered the front office to an all-time high of 21 full-timers.  The centerpiece of Weisbach and Rosenberg’s plan for “The New Chicago Sting” was a $1 million investment in post-game concerts for seventeen of the Sting’s twenty-eight home matches.  In July 1987, the ad men unveiled a Branson-esque line-up of white-bread entertainment acts, including Marie Osmond, Chubby Checker & Fabian, Suzanne Somers,  Buddy Hackett and Jeffrey Osborne.

The gambit was a bust.  One month into the season, the Sting began dropping concerts from the schedule, citing poor sound at the Rosemont Horizon and lack of fan interest in many of the acts.  This particular match against the Strikers on January 22, 1988 was originally supposed to feature a post-game show from Susan Anton (zzzz…) but this was one of the first shows to get the axe.  By early 1988, attendance was languishing back around the 6,000 mark, no better than the year before.  A losing team under Head Coach Erich Geyer didn’t help matters.

Meanwhile, in the upper Midwest, the Minnesota Strikers limped into the 1987-88 MISL season basically against the better judgment of its owners, the Robbie Family.  Like Stern, the Robbies were long-time owners dating back to the NASL days.  The family originally operated the club in their home state of Florida as the Fort Lauderdale Strikers (1977-1983), before relocating to Minnesota in November 1983.  Like the Sting, the Strikers joined the MISL in August 1984 with the NASL about to collapse.  Indoor soccer did not capture the hearts of Minnesotans.  From 1984 to 1987, the Strikers perennially were among the worst draws in the MISL, with attendance hovering between 5,000 and 6,000 per match.  The Robbies lost a reported $5.5 million on the Strikers indoor team from 1984 to 1987 and considered shutting down the franchise in each of the prior two seasons.  The Robbies also explored permission to sit out a year in August 1987.  But each time Joe Robbie was persuaded to return for one more go round.

During the same week that the Strikers traveled to Chicago for this January 1988 match, the Robbies were negotiating the sale of the Strikers to a Saudi oil billionaire named Yehia Ben Sead.   Sead talked a big game and reportedly printed up promotional bumper stickers for the acquisition (“Strikers and Soccer: It’s Sheik”)  but nothing ever came of the talks.

Five months to the day after this match, the Strikers went out of business at the MISL’s annual league meetings on June 22, 1988.  Lee Stern followed suit two weeks later, folding the Chicago Sting on July 8, 1988 after a last gasp effort to move the team to Denver fell through.  At the time, the Sting were the oldest professional soccer franchise in the United States.



1-22-1988 Chicago Sting vs. Minnesota Strikers article sources



Chicago Sting Home

Minnesota Strikers Home




Written by AC

January 10th, 2013 at 3:34 pm

March 10, 1985 – Minnesota Strikers vs. Chicago Sting


Slobo Ilijevski St. Louis SteamersMinnesota Strikers vs. Chicago Sting
March 10, 1985
The Met Center
Attendance: 5,359

Major Indoor Soccer League Programs
52 pages

Sharp game program from the heyday of the Major Indoor Soccer League.  The Minnesota Strikers hosted the Chicago Sting at the old Met Center in Bloomington, Minnesota on the evening of March 10th, 1985.  A modest crowd of 5,359 watched the Strikers come back and defeat the Sting 6-4, courtesy of a 4th quarter hat trick by Liberian-born midfielder Ben Collins (who only scored 10 other goals all season).

The Strikers never really caught on in Minnesota.  The club was owned by the Robbie Family of Florida.  Joe Robbie was famous as the owner of the NFL’s Miami Dolphins.  His wife Elizabeth and son Tim ran the Strikers, who had their glory days as an outdoor club – the Fort Lauderdale Strikers – in the North American Soccer League from 1977 to 1983.  The Robbie’s moved the Strikers to Minneapolis in November 1983 and played one summer season of “outdoor” soccer at the indoor Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in 1984.  But the NASL folded and the Strikers accepted an invitation to join the MISL in the winter of 1984-85.

Ben Collins Chicago StingCollins played just the one full season for the Strikers and this match was likely his finest moment.  In November 1985, Minnesota traded Collins to the Sting, who perhaps remembered this night when he single-handedly beat them in the final frame.  Collins remained a key performer in the MISL for the rest of its existence until 1992, when the league folded and Collins retired.

To their credit, the Robbie’s muddled along in Minnesota for four seasons, although the Strikers were annually one of the league’s weakest draws.  The exception was the spring of 1986, when the club made a run to the MISL Championship Series and drew several capacity or near capacity crowds at the Met Center.  The Strikers ultimately lost that series to the Sockers and the bandwagon fans faded away over the club’s final two seasons.  The Robbie family threw in the towel in June 1988, folding the club at the MISL annual postseason meetings.

From 1978 to 1985, the MISL published a national magazine format game program called MISSILE.  The cover story of each issue was created at the national office, so the program art often had nothing to do with the game in question.  In this case, the cover subject was St. Louis Steamers goalkeeper Slobo Ilijevski.  Ilijevski was one of the indoor game’s all-time great keepers and played professionally into his 40’s.   Sadly, Ilijevski passed away at the age of 58 in July 2008 after suffering a ruptured aorta while playing in an over-the-hill league game in Bellingham, Washington.



Chicago Sting Home Page

Minnesota Strikers Home Page



Get every new post on this blog delivered to your Inbox.

Join other followers: