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1978 Oakland Stompers

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Oakland StompersNorth American Soccer League (1978)

Born: September 1977 – The Connecticut Bicentennials move to Oakland.
Died:
February 22, 1979 – The Stompers relocate to Edmonton, Alberta.

Stadium: Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum

Team Colors:

Owner: Milan Mandaric and Bill Graham

 

The Oakland Stompers were a One-Year Wonder in the North American Soccer League during the a  spring and summer of 1978.  Club founder Milan Mandaric previously started up the NASL’s other Bay Area franchise, the popular San Jose Earthquakes, in 1974.  In late 1977 he divested himself of the Earthquakes and bought the league’s struggling Connecticut Bicentennials club and moved it across the country to the Oakland Coliseum.  It was bold move considering that many at the time wondered if the Bay Area could even support its two Major League Baseball franchises.  But the NASL was riding at a peak of investor enthusiasm in 1978 amidst the belief that pro soccer would be the Sport of the 80’s.

The Stompers identity derived from Northern California’s burgeoning wine industry.  The club’s cheerleading squad was called the “Corkpoppers”.  And the team distributed a free match day supplement called Grapevine to supplement the NASL’s KICK Magazine game programs.

The Stompers, who were ultimately unsuccessful in competition, were best known for signing iconoclast goalkeeper Shep Messing to a $100,000 contract for the 1978 season, which was then the largest contract ever offered to an American-born soccer player.

Messing was the primary goalkeeper on the New York Cosmos’ Soccer Bowl championship team in 1977.  The Harvard-educated goalkeeper was an aggressive self-promoter – he infamously posed nude for Viva magazine in 1974 – but in New York he was overshadowed by the Cosmos’ menagerie of international superstars.  Messing was also a laggard in training and seemed to view leadership as synonymous with antagonizing his head coaches early in his career.  By his own later admission, Messing struggled with technical aspects of the outdoor game, such as dealing with crosses into the box, despite his tremendous reflexes and athleticism.  The Cosmos were willing to let him go (and indeed would repeat as league champions without him in 1978).

Shep Messing SkoalIn Oakland, finally, Messing was the face of the franchise and the subject of most of the club’s national media attention, including a lengthy profile by J.D. Reed in the July 10th, 1978 issue of Sports Illustrated  But Stompers’ General Manager Dick Berg ripped Messing in the article, noting that his star’s reputed appetite for publicity rare extended to team functions.

“Shep is only interested in his own promotion,” Berg told Reed.  “Every time we have a ticket-selling banquet or a shopping-center promotion set up for him, he threatens to put himself on the injured list.  Chewing tobacco on network television doesn’t put fans in the seats.”

The Stompers made their debut at Oakland Coliseum on April 2, 1978 to an impressive crowd of 32,104.  Messing reportedly rejected Berg’s request to enter the stadium riding atop an elephant.  The big crowd was somewhat misleading as the Stompers were playing their Bay Area rivals, the San Jose Earthquakes.  The Associated Press noted that half of the big crowd appeared to be rooting for San Jose.  The club would never see a home crowd anywhere near that size again.  Eight of the Stompers remaining fourteen home matches at the Coliseum drew fewer than 10,000 fans.

Messing was fantastic in the Stompers’ debut.  Late in the match he stopped a penalty kick from the ‘Quakes Ilija Mitic, the NASL’s all-time leading scorer at the time, to preserve a 0-0 tie.  The NASL didn’t have ties in 1978 though, so after an uneventful 15-minute overtime period, the game was decided by the “Shootout”, which featured five players from each club attempting to score during a timed, undefended breakaway.  Messing turned away four of five shooters from the Quakes.  Rookie Andy Atuegbu, a college standout from the University of San Francisco, and Polish import Franz Smuda found the net for the Stompers in the Shootout to give the hosts a 1-0 opening day triumph.

After a 9-9 start the Stompers wilted through the back end of the 1978 campaign, finishing 12-18 and out of playoff contention.  In late March 1979, on the eve of what would have been the Stompers’ sophomore season, owner Milan Mandaric sold the team to Peter Pocklington, the owner of the Edmonton Oilers hockey team.  Pocklington moved the club to Edmonton and renamed it the Edmonton Drillers.  The Drillers played four seasons before folding in 1982.  The NASL went out of business after the 1984 season.

Mandaric owned several other unsuccessful American soccer clubs in the 1980s’ and 1990’s, mostly in the indoor leagues.  In the 2000’s, he turned his attention to Europe, where he enjoyed much greater success in ownership stints with Portsmouth, Leicester City and Sheffield Wednesday in England.

Former Stompers defender Franz Smuda later became manager of the Polish National Team from 2009 to 2012.

 

==1978 Oakland Stompers Results==

Date Opponent Score Program Other
4/2/1978 vs. San Jose Earthquakes W 1-0 (SO)
4/8/1978 @ Portland Timbers L 1-0 Program
4/16/1978 @ Chicago Sting W 2-1
4/21/1978 vs. Chicago Sting W 2-1
4/30/1978 @ Los Angeles Aztecs W 2-1
5/6/1978 @ Tulsa Roughnecks L 3-0 Roster
5/10/1978 vs. Los Angeles Aztecs L 2-1 (SO)
5/14/1978 vs. California Surf L 5-2
5/17/1978 vs. Memphis Rogues W 1-0 (SO)
5/20/1978 @ Philadelphia Fury  L 3-1 Program
5/27/1978 vs. New England Tea Men  W 1-0
5/31/1978 vs. Fort Lauderdale Strikers W 2-1
6/4/1978 @ Houston Hurricane W 1-0
6/7/1978 @ Tampa Bay Rowdies L 1-0
6/10/1978 @ Fort Lauderdale Strikers L 2-0
6/14/1978 vs. Houston Hurricane L 3-2
6/19/1978 vs. Minnesota Kicks W 1-0
6/24/1978 vs. Philadelphia Fury L 1-0
6/28/1978 @ Detroit Express W 4-3
6/30/1978 @ Toronto Metros-Croatia L 8-2
7/4/1978 vs. Portland Timbers L 1-0
7/8/1978 @ Seattle Sounders L 1-0
7/10/1978 vs. San Diego Sockers W 1-0
7/14/1978 @ San Diego Sockers L 3-0
7/17/1978 @ Vancouver Whitecaps L 2-1
7/21/1978 vs. New York Cosmos L 5-1
7/26/1978 @ California Surf W 2-1 Program Roster
7/30/1978 vs. Vancouver Whitecaps L 6-2
8/2/1978 vs. Seattle Sounders L 2-1 (SO)
8/5/1978 @ San Jose Earthquakes L 2-1

 

==Video==

Shep Messing pimps Skoal Tobacco circa 1978:

 

==Links==

Support Your Local Keeper!” J.D. Reed, Sports Illustrated, July 10, 1978

North American Soccer League Media Guides

North American Soccer League Programs

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August 26, 1981 – Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Tampa Bay Rowdies

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Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Tampa Bay Rowdies
North American Soccer League Playoffs, Round 1, Game 2
August 26, 1981
Empire Stadium
Attendance: 28,896

North American Soccer League Programs

 

The Tampa Bay Rowdies really had no business in the North American Soccer League playoffs in 1981.  The Rowdies finished last in their division with a losing record of 15-17.  But they snuck into the NASL’s ultra generous playoff format, setting up a rematch of Soccer Bowl ’79  against the powerhouse Vancouver Whitecaps club in the first round.

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.

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Written by andycrossley

February 9th, 2014 at 10:21 pm

1975-1978 Toronto Metros-Croatia

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North American Soccer League (1975-1978)

Born: 1975 – The Toronto Metros merge with Toronto Croatia.
Died: February 1, 1979 – Metros-Croatia re-brand as the Toronto Blizzard.

Stadiums:

Team Colors: Red, White & Blue

Owner: Sam Paric, et al.

 

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.

 

 

==Metros-Croatia Matches on Fun While It Lasted==

Season Date Opponent Score Program Other
1976 8/20/1976 @ Chicago Sting  W 3-2 (PK) Program
1977 8/13/1977 @ Rochester Lancers L 1-0 (SO) Program
1978 4/15/1978 @ Seattle Sounders ?? Program

 

==YouTube==

Toronto Metros-Croatia at Tampa Bay Rowdies highlights.  NASL Conference Championship (playoff semi-final). August 24, 1976.

 

 ==Links==

Retro T.O.: Toronto Metros-Croatia, unlikely Soccer Bowl champion“, Jamie Bradburn, The Grid, August 2012

North American Soccer League Media Guides

North American Soccer League Programs

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Written by andycrossley

January 28th, 2014 at 11:13 pm

August 10, 1971 – Atlanta Chiefs vs. Bangu

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Atlanta Chiefs vs. Bangu (Brazil)
August 10, 1971
Atlanta Stadium
Attendance: 3,480

North American Soccer League Programs
32 pages

 

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.

 

==Downloads==

August 10, 1971 Atlanta Chiefs Roster

August 10, 1971 Bangu (Brazil) Roster

 

==Links==

More NASL International Friendlies

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Written by andycrossley

January 12th, 2014 at 3:24 pm

December 26, 1983 – Chicago Sting vs. New York Cosmos

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Chicago Sting vs. New York Cosmos
December 26, 1983
Chicago Stadium
Attendance: 11,722

North American Soccer League Programs
48 pages

 

“Season Greetings From Your Chicago Sting“…

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.

 

==Links==

Chicago Sting Home Page

New York Cosmos Home Page

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Written by andycrossley

December 27th, 2013 at 12:15 am