The San Diego Jaws were a club that lasted only one season in the North American Soccer League in the summer of 1976. The team was owned by San Jose car dealer Ken Keegan, who was a part owner of the NASL’s San Jose Earthquakes franchise when that team debuted in 1974. In October 1975 Keegan organized a group to buy the NASL’s distressed Baltimore Comets club and relocate it to the Aztec Bowl on the campus of San Diego State University for the 1976 season.
The Jaws finished last place (5th) in their division in 1976 with a 9-15 mark under player-coach Derek Trevis. The team had one of the most anemic offenses in the NASL, scoring just 29 goals in 24 matches. Only the St. Louis Stars (28 goals) scored less in the 20-team NASL in 1976. The Jaws averaged just over 6,000 fans per match (announced) at the Aztec Bowl.
In late 1976, owner Ken Keegan moved the team to Nevada where they became the Las Vegas Quicksilvers for the 1977. After one year in Vegas, the franchise returned to San Diego in 1978 under new ownership and this time it stuck. The re-named San Diego Sockers began play in 1978 and lasted nearly 20 years, surviving the death of the NASL in 1984 and becoming a dominant indoor soccer dynasty during the 1980′s. The original Sockers finally went out of business in 1996.
English midfielder Trevor Hockey died of a heart attack on April 2, 1987 at age 43.
Jaws player-coach Derek Trevis passed away on December 21, 2000 at age 58.
The Whitecaps looked poised to make another strong Soccer Bowl run in 1981. They had a prolific and democratic offense. Vancouver ranked 3rd in the 21-team NASL in goals scored with 74 (trailing only eventual Soccer Bowl finalists Chicago & New York) despite the fact that their leading scorer Carl Valentine ranked just 20th in the league. The defense, keyed by 2nd Team All-Star Pierce O’Leary, was even better. The Whitecaps allowed a NASL-low 43 goals in 32 regular season matches. Englishman Barry Siddall was among the league’s stingiest goalkeepers with a 1.30 goals against average and 6 clean sheets in 24 appearances.
So it was a shock when the Rowdies blitzed Vancouver for a 4-1 victory in Game 1 at Tampa Bay on August 23rd. Vancouver actually got on the board first, courtesy of a volley from Valentine. But the Rowdies tied the match late in the first half and stunned the visiting ‘Caps with a three goal barrage in the second. The best-of-three series now headed back to Vancouver’s Empire Stadium for Game 2 and, if necessary, Game 3.
“We’re a great team,” Siddall told The St. Petersburg Times resolutely after the Game 1 debacle. “And I guarantee you, things will be different at our place.”
Siddall was right. The Whitecaps couldn’t score at all three nights later in front of a near sellout at Empire Stadium. Vancouver organized their defense and controlled the tempo in the first half, but it was the Rowdies that scored against he run of play. English winger David Moss, playing his only season in America on a loan from Luton Town, beat the Vancouver defensive wall and Barry Siddall from 23 yards out on a free kick in the 28th minute. Moss had also scored for Tampa in the Game 1 rout.
The Rowdies defense and goalkeeper Kevin “Cat” Keelan blanked Vancouver the rest of the way and Moss’ goal held up in the 1-0 victory. The stunned Whitecaps went home in the first round for the second straight year. Tampa’s lack of talent caught up with them in the next round, and they lost to the NASL’s top regular season team, the New York Cosmos in the quarterfinals.
Collector’s note: Angelo DiBernardo of the Cosmos was pictured on the cover of the evening’s KICK Magazine match program (above right). This was the cover used for all NASL 1st round playoff matches in 1981.
Toronto Metros-Croatia was an anomaly within the North American Soccer League during the NASL’s boom years of the mid-to-late 1970′s. The club formed in 1975 through the merger of the NASL’s Toronto Metros (1971-1974) and Toronto Croatia of Canada’s small-time National Soccer League.
To the chagrin of league executives and observers, the merged club played up its ethnic identity, coming up with the awkward “Metros-Croatia” moniker and filling its management (entirely) and roster (largely) with ethnic Croats. In 1977, Tampa Bay Rowdies beat writer Ken Blankenship from The St. Petersburg Times published a long screed against the Metros-Croatia organization (and, by extension, the NASL for tolerating the club). Blankenship’s hackles were raised by a miserable experience trying to cover a Rowdies road game in Toronto. The writer described the Metros-Croatia as essentially an insular “neighborhood soccer team” lacking the most basic professional standards of operation and promotion, and existing solely for the amusement of a tiny bad of expatriate supporters: owner “Sam <Paric> and his Yugoslavian pals”.
Blankenship wasn’t a lone voice in the wilderness either. League officials purportedly directed broadcasters of the 1976 Soccer Bowl to refer to the club only as “Toronto”. At 1976 NASL meetings held during the Soccer Bowl championship in Seattle, influential New York Cosmos President Clive Toye introduced a motion to ban “ethnic names” from the 20-team league - a pointed jab at Toronto. The Croatians who backed the team pointed out that their name (and their money) was good enough for the NASL when they stepped in to bail out the failing Metros franchise in 1975.
But whatever Metros-Croatia lacked in professionalism off the field, they were a competitive club. Despite a chaotic 1976 season that featured a seven-game scoreless streak, the mid-season sacking of autocratic coach Ivan Markovic, and constant financial problems, Metros-Croatia got hot at the right time and actually won the 1976 Soccer Bowl championship of the NASL, defeating the Minnesota Kicks 3-0 at the Seattle Kingdome on August 28, 1976.
Although the club was typically categorized as a “Croatian” or “Yugoslav” club, Metros-Croatia’s 1976 Soccer Bowl run was helped by the acquisition of Portuguese legend Eusebio and German midfielder Wolfgang Sunholz from the NASL’s financially distressed Boston Minutemen franchise. Eusebio led Metros-Croatia in scoring and placed eighth overall in the NASL in 1976, but was left off the league’s All-Star team, as were all other members of the championship Toronto side. Eusebio also scored the decisive first goal in the Soccer Bowl ’76 final against Minnesota.
After the 1976 season, cash-strapped Metros-Croatia couldn’t afford to re-sign Eusebio or Sunholz. Clive Toye’s move to ban ethnic names went nowhere and the rest of the NASL had to deal with the odd little Croatian club from Ontario for two more season. Finally in January 1979 the club’s backers sold out to Global Television Network, who re-branded the team as the Toronto Blizzard a month later. Under Global, the Blizzard also left Metros-Croatia’s humble home at the University of Toronto and moved into new giant modern Exhibition Stadium for the 1979 season. Toronto Croatia re-joined the semi-pro National Soccer League.
Fans of modern day Major League Soccer may see many parallels between the Toronto Metros-Croatia story and the controversial ethnic identity and employment practices of MLS’ Chivas USA club in Los Angeles.
I snapped up this rare 1971 North American Soccer League (NASL) program on e-Bay the other day. Pretty much any American pro soccer material from 1969 to 1974, I’ll grab it as soon as I see it, and this program from the original Atlanta Chiefs (1967-1972) is a particularly nice example.
From 1969 to 1974 pro soccer was mired in one of the periodic dark ages that plagued the sport in America during a boom-and-bust cycle that extended from the U.S.A’s shocking upset of England in the 1950 World Cup through the formation of Major League Soccer in 1996. High profile efforts to launch a U.S. pro league in 1967 and 1968 saw 17 clubs taking part in the first season of the NASL in 1968, many backed by wealthy pro football and baseball owners. But the league collapsed swiftly and spectacularly with only five clubs continuing on for the 1969 season.
The Atlanta Chiefs, backed by and co-branded with Major League Baseball’s Atlanta Braves, were one of the shell-shocked survivors. By 1971 the NASL had stabilized somewhat, growing back to eight clubs including the expansion New York Cosmos, who would soon spark the next soccer boom with their signing of Pele, the world’s greatest player, in 1975. But that was still four years away and, in 1971, few people were paying any attention to pro soccer either in the sporting press or in the NASL’s near empty stadiums.
Consequently, I couldn’t find much record of this August 1971 international match between the Chiefs and Bangu of Brazil. A few brief wire service blurbs indicate that the Brazilians won 2-0 and the guys over at SoccerStats.us are the only source for attendance figure, claiming a paltry 3,480 were present at 52,000-seat Atlanta Stadium.
The original Chiefs died off in 1972, when the Braves sold the team to the operators of the new Omni Arena, who changed the club’s name to the Atlanta Apollos and quickly experienced buyer’s remorse. The new owners folded the Apollos in late 1973. After Pele’s arrival in America sparked a new soccer boom in the late 1970′s, the Braves got back in and formed a new NASL version of the Chiefs that ran from 1979-1981.
Great KICK Magazine match day from 30 years ago today, when the Chicago Sting took on their North American Soccer League arch rivals in an indoor soccer matinee at the old Chicago Stadium downtown. The crowd of 11,722 was the Sting’s largest of the indoor season so far, thanks to the holiday and the box office appeal of the hated New York Cosmos.
Cosmos’ striker Steve Moyers graces the program cover, but it was New York’s Polish indoor specialist Stan Terlecki who carried the afternoon for the visitors, scoring all four of the Cosmos’ goals, including the game winner with under three minutes to play. The Cosmos won 4-3. Charlie Fajkus (2 goals) and Ingo Peter scored for the Sting in a losing effort.