New York Arrows vs. New Jersey Rockets
November 20, 1981
Major Indoor Soccer League Programs
When the Major Indoor Soccer League (MISL) debuted in December 1978, the sport of indoor soccer was basically a new invention. A few previous leagues had tried and failed to get off the ground. The outdoor North American Soccer League (NASL) had experimented with a few weekend tournaments and one-off exhibitions over the years. But no one had truly tried to market the game to American sports fans until MISL founders Earl Foreman and Ed Tepper got their league off the ground in the winter of 1978-79.
By 1981 – just three years later – an indoor soccer glut had descended on the metropolitan NYC market. The Brendan Byrne Arena opened that July in the Meadowlands Sports Complex in north Jersey. With the MISL heading into its fourth season and firmly in expansion mode, co-founder Ed Tepper took the opportunity to finally launch his own franchise, bringing the New Jersey Rockets to the brand new 19,000-seat arena. Tepper wasn’t the only soccer investor with his eyes on the new building. The NASL launched its own wintertime indoor league in 1979. But for two years the NASL’s most famous club looked down their nose at the indoor game and declined to participate. In 1981, with Byrne Arena opening right next to their outdoor home at Giants Stadium, the New York Cosmos finally got off the sidelines and fielded a indoor side. Between the Rockets and the Cosmos, there were 31 indoor soccer dates at the Byrne in just five months. The Cosmos fielded a half-hearted last place team but the added competition still drove Tepper’s Rockets into bankruptcy and oblivion by the end of the season.
But the oldest and most successful of the New York indoor teams was the New York Arrows, who played out on Long Island at the Nassau Coliseum. The Arrows were a dynasty and they’d won the first three championships of the MISL. They had the league’s best player in Yugoslavian scoring wizard Steve Zungul, who was to indoor soccer in the early 80’s what Wayne Gretzky was to ice hockey. Branko Segota wasn’t far behind Zungul and the Arrows also had one of the few well-known American stars in soccer, former Cosmos goalkeeper Shep Messing. As good as they were, the Arrows were something short of a sensation out on Long Island, never ranking among the league’s top draws despite their virtual invincibility.
This match was the Arrows fourth season opener against the expansion Rockets. Their dominance was on full display for the large crowd at Nassau Coliseum, as the Arrows raced out to a 9-0 lead before easing off the gas pedal late. As usual, Zungul led the way with four goals. Argentinean forward Luis Alberto added a hat trick as well. The Rockets picked up two garbage goals late for a 9-2 final.
At the end of this 1981-82 season, the Arrows won their fourth straight MISL crown, which would also be their final hurrah. The following season, Zungul was shipped out in a midseason budget-cutting move and by the summer of 1984 of the Arrows were no more.