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November 20, 1981 – New York Arrows vs. New Jersey Rockets

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New York Arrows vs. New Jersey Rockets
November 20, 1981
Nassau Coliseum
Attendance: 12,118

Major Indoor Soccer League Programs
68 pages


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.



November 20, 1981 New York Arrows Game Notes

November 20, 1981 New Jersey Rockets Game Notes

November 20, 1981 Official Scorer’s Report



New Jersey Rockets Home Page

New York Arrows Home Page



Written by AC

July 30th, 2013 at 4:17 am

1978-1984 New York Arrows

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New York ArrowsMajor Indoor Soccer League (1978-1984)

Born: 1978 – MISL founding franchise
Folded: July 1984

Arena: Nassau Coliseum (15,026)

Team Colors: Bordeaux Red, Blue & White


MISL Champions: 1979, 1980, 1981 & 1982


The New York Arrows were the original dynasty franchise in the sport of indoor soccer in the United States.  One of six founding franchises in the Major Indoor Soccer League in 1978, the Arrows won the first four MISL championships from 1979 to 1982.  The team was virtually unbeatable during this stretch, posting a regular season record of 114-26 under Head Coach Don Popovic.

Arrows owner John Luciani was also an investor in the Rochester Lancers of the outdoor North American Soccer League during the late 1970’s.  Luciani was only involved with the Lancers for a short time and would ultimately ended up embroiled in contentious lawsuits with other members of the Lancers’ sprawling and unwieldy ownership consortium.  But Luciani was involved with Rochester when the MISL formed in the fall of 1978 and this allowed him to essentially make the Arrows into a sister club of the Lancers and stock the team with talent from the outdoor club.  Don Popovic came over from the Lancers, as did the teenage scoring prodigy Branko Segota and goalkeeper Shep Messing, who was one of the few recognizable American-born stars of the era, thanks to his years with the glamorous New York Cosmos of the NASL (and perhaps also his nude photo shoot for VIVA magazine in 1974).

The biggest find for the Arrows was the Yugoslavian striker Steve Zungul.  A budding superstar for Hajduk Split in the Yugoslav First League, Zungul became embroiled in a dispute with club management. He was concerned they would send him off to compulsory military service.  In December 1978 – the same month the MISL kicked off its inaugural season – Zungul defected to the United States and signed with the Arrows.  He hoped to eventually sign with an NASL club and play outdoor soccer. But Yugoslavia successfully petitioned FIFA to ban Zungul from all FIFA-sanctioned leagues until his 28th birthday in 1982, citing a Yugoslavian rule that players could not play overseas prior to age 28.  The NASL was sanctioned by FIFA, but the upstart Major Indoor Soccer League was not.  Thus through a quirk of Cold War politics, the Arrows found themselves in sole possession of the indoor game’s first great star – the man who became known as “The Lord of All Indoors”.

Zungul would win the MISL’s Most Valuable Player award in each season from 1979 to 1982, matching the years that the Arrows won the league title.

The Arrows played at the Nassau Coliseum out on Long Island.  Despite their dominance, local interest in the team never match the enthusiasm for indoor soccer in Midwest hotbeds like Cleveland, St. Louis and Kansas City.  Announced attendance peaked for the Arrows during their third season at 8,083 fans per game and then dropped steadily through the early 1980’s.

John Luciani sold the Arrows for an undisclosed amount in November 1982 just as the Arrows fifth season got underway.  He cited $10 million in losses during the Arrows’ first four season.  The new owner was Dr. David Schoenstadt, who also happened to be the owner of the MISL’s tremendously popular Kansas City Comets club.  The purchase created a competitive conflict of interest within the MISL, but allowed the young league to maintain a foothold in the vital New York media market.  Carl Berg, owner of the Golden Bay Earthquakes, who played in the MISL that season, was also part of the new investment group.

New York ArrowsSchoenstadt and his management team were not able to replicate the success they had in Kansas City.  The ownership transition of 1982 marked the end of the Arrows dynasty and the beginning of the club’s rapid decline.  The Arrows early dominance was fueled largely by foreign – particularly Slavic – stars (with the exception of Shep Messing).  The new management promoted a process of “Americanization”, believing that American players would be more relatable and better suited to the club’s aggressive grass roots marketing strategy of promoting the Arrows through clinics and community appearances.

Other observers believed “Americanization” was a rhetorical cover for cost-cutting. They pointed in particular to the departure of Steve Zungul as Exhibit A.  The Arrows traded Zungul, who earned a reported $150,000/year at his Arrows peak, to the Golden Bay Earthquakes in the middle of the 1982-83 season for Gary Etherington and Gordon Hill. The deal effectively ended the Arrows run as an elite team.

The Arrows final season came during the winter of 1983-84.  Schoenstadt complained about the lease terms at Nassau Coliseum while attendance declined to 5,478 per match.  Efforts to sell and relocate the team to either Charlotte or Cincinnati fell through.  In July 1984 the Arrows folded and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

In early 1986, former Arrows goalkeeper Shep Messing assembled an investor group and successfully applied for an MISL expansion club to replace the Arrows on Long Island.  The New York Express joined the MISL for the 1986-87 season, but lasted only until the All-Star Break before folding with a record of 3-23.  The original MISL folded in July 1992.


New York Arrows Memorabilia


In Memoriam

Arrows owner David Schoenstadt died of cancer in December 1991.

Arrows forward Paul Kitson died of a heart attack on August 25, 2005 while coaching a soccer clinic in Toronto.  He was 49.


New York Arrows Video

The Arrows host the Baltimore Blast at Nassau Coliseum.  April 2, 1982.


1979-80 New York Arrows Season Ticket Brochure

November 20, 1981 New York Arrows vs. New Jersey Rockets Game Notes



Major Indoor Soccer League Media Guides

Major Indoor Soccer League Programs



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