The Albany Capitals (1988-91) were a professional soccer team who based in Albany, New York State. They were only active for 4 seasons, the first two years being in the American Soccer League (ASL), and their last 2 years in the American Professional Soccer League (APSL) after the merger of the ASL and the WSL.
They were owned by Italian-born Armand Quadrini, a local property developer and construction company owner. He moved to Schenectady at the age of 15 learned the building trade after returning from a spell in the army. They were based in Bleecker Stadium (capacity 7,000) in Albany, although they played a few fixtures at the Shenendehowah High School Stadium.
In 1988 they began play, under the helm of English coach John Bramley, a coach whose resume apparently included playing professionally for Newcastle United in England, as well as coaching at Nottingham Forest, and with the England national team. There are no records of him ever playing professionally in England, or coaching at that level (he may have played and coached the junior or youth teams however). He had also apparently been around the world on behalf of the English Football Association as a speaker.
Above him was a Scottish General Manager, Jim Sinkins, who had apparently played in Scotland before emigrating to the US in 1962. His day job was as an insurance salesman, though he had been active in coaching in the Albany area, as well as being the announcer for the New York Eagles in the ASL. He doubled up as match day announcer for the Capitals. He knows owns his own insurance business, the Allstate Insurance Co.
The annual budget for the team was $250,000 to $300,000, which was thought to be sufficient for a team in an essentially regional league. The league limited wages to a $50,000 per season cap. A $20,000 bond out of the team’s budget was given to the ASL to keep it functioning. According to ASL rules the visiting team was also entitled to a percentage of the gate income, and no lower than $1,000. This meant that for each home game $2,000 was spent before they started to recoup. Ticket prices were roughly $7 per adult, and $4 per child (children who were members of youth leagues were let in for free with a paying adult). Sponsorship of the team included Keis Distributors, 92-FLY, Otto Oldsmobile/Cadillac & Price Chopper.
To prepare for their inaugural season, they played an exhibition schedule that included playing Southampton FC of England, a match which cost them $12,000 to the English Football Association to arrange. Other teams on the exhibition schedule included games against the ASL opposition of the Washington Stars and the New Jersey Eagles. They were to be based in the ASL Northern Division, matching them against the New Jersey Eagles, Washington Stars, Maryland Bays, and the Boston Bolts.
The roster was capped by ASL rules to 18 players, 3 of which could be foreign players (not counting college graduates), and a maximum of 2 from the MISL (Major Indoor Soccer League). The squad was largely straight out of college soccer, a fair amount of them British. They featured Ex-Derby County midfielder Steve Powell (352 games) who was made captain. Also, Glenn Davis, finishing up a minor league career before going on to become a commentator for ESPN, and Sadri Gjonbalaj. Most of the players were paid on a game-by-game basis, and only if they played. Wages were low, so many had to hold down a regular job to make ends meet.
The Capitals first professional match was a penalty shoot-out loss to the Tampa Bay Rowdies on the 14th April 1988. This was to become a pattern as frequently the Capitals played well, but lost out in the penalties (the ASL had done away with draws). As to be expected the Capitals management wanted to change this situation, stating that they had listened too much to ex-NASL teams about what the crowd wanted.
The first home match was against the Miami Sharks on the 30th April. They won 2-1 before 1,724 fans with goals through their Yugoslavian striker, Viktor Jakovljevic and Russ Downing.
Mid season they entertained Middlesbrough FC, who were on a 4 game American tour. They came out with a very reputable 1-1 draw, although the attendance was a poor 724 fans. Captain Steve Powell also dislocated his shoulder, keeping him out of the next 2 ASL games.
They ended the 1988 season bottom of the Northern Division, with a record of 7 wins and 13 losses. They scored 26 goals, letting in 35. Their top goal scorer was English midfielder, Russ Downing, with 4. Defender Jeff Guinn was voted player of the year, whilst English midfielders Andy Harrison & Steve Powell were voted on to the ASL All-star team.
Their total attendance for their 10 home league games was 10,003, for an average of 1,000. The highest attendance was 1,724 in the opener against the Miami Sharks.
For the 1989 season, the Capitals were looking to move out of downtown Bleecker stadium and into the suburbs in an effort to boost attendance, however a new stadium could not be found so they ended up starting at the Bleecker. The lumpy grass surface at the stadium was now also a cause for concern. Jim Sinkins was moved to become Vice-President and replaced as General Manager by Joe Hennessey, although he quit before the season started. John Bramley had dual roles as Head Coach & General Manager.
Future USA captain and English premier League player John Harkes signed on and played his first season as a professional (6 games 1 goal). Foreign players were now limited to 2 at any one time (not counting College graduates). Steve Powell was kept on as one of the foreign players, as well as being made an assistant coach. Other notable players were future US internationals Brian Bliss (5 games 0 goals) & Mike Windischmann (5 games 0 goals). Chico Borja & Pedro DeBrito filled the MISL roles.
They opened their 1989 season with a 1-0 away loss at the Orlando Lions. The 1989 home opener was against the defending champions, the Washington Diplomats. A record low attendance of only 300 attending to see a shootout loss to the Washington Stars, with both coaches again decrying the shoot out as a means to settle games.
During the season Englishman Bob Cummings, former defender with Grimsby Town and Lincoln City, was brought in. Also in came ex-England international forward Paul Mariner was signed. He had been playing for Australian side Wollongong City after leaving Arsenal.
The match against the Maryland Bays turned into a violent affair, with Chico Borja punched in the mouth and left unconscious, leaving him needing 11 stitches and minor plastic surgery. His brother, and fellow Capital, Ramiro, got sent off for retaliating against the aggressor.
Albany finished 3rd in the Northern division in 1989, with a record of 11 wins and 9 losses from 20 games. The top scorer was English forward Elvis Comrie with 7 goals – during the season he quit his job as a stockbroker to concentrate on soccer. Chico Borja was the ASL’s assist leader, with 12 during the season. 2 players (Chico Borja & John Harkes) made the ASL All-star team.
By the end of the season home game attendance was up 84% on 1988 levels, with a total attendance for all 10 home games being 18,427. The average attendance was 1,842, with a season high being the 4,031 fo4 a 5-1 victory against the New Jersey Eagles at the Shenendehowah High School stadium. This was one of 2 fixtures held at the stadium. The record low was 300 in the game against the Miami Sharks.
At the end of the season the Armand Quadrini ran into money difficulties, and was forced to auction off a number of his properties. He assured the fans that this would not affect his funding of the team. The ASL merged with the WSA (Western Soccer Alliance) to form the APSL (American Professional Soccer League), a truly national league as opposed to the ASL’s East Coast league. The played the leagues as before, but the winners of the east and west played each other in the final game. For 1990 there was now to be a 15 minute overtime period, rather than the game going straight to penalty kicks.
Albany were placed in the American Conference of the APSL, lining up against the Maryland Bays, Penn-Jersey Spirit, Boston Bolts, Washington Stars & New Jersey Eagles.
For the 1990 season, Paul Mariner returned, but would feature as a defender, rather than his usual striking role. He would also serve as assistant coach to John Bramley. Leading scorer Comrie, and assist maker Borja also returned, however John Harkes left for Sheffield Wednesday in England (his agent was Capitals VP Jim Sinkins). Goalkeeper Scoop Stancisic was scheduled to return when his MISL season with the Baltimore Blast finished, but due to the quality play of long-time deputy Bill Steffen he was not needed. Former sportscaster Ed O’Brien was named as Publicity Director.
Their first match was a 1-o win at the Orange Bowl against the Miami Freedom on the 14th of April. The first home match was on the 28th April against the Tampa Bay Rowdies in front of 1,392 fans, which they won 3-1. Due to scheduling 6 of their first 8 games were played away from Bleecker stadium. The improved surface at Bleecker enabled them to play their preferred game on the floor.
Again attendances fluctuated, with only 500 turning up against the Orlando Lions.
Comrie, last year’s leading scorer was sidelined and unhappy about it for most of the year, being replaced by Mike Masters up front. Back up goalkeeper Martin Vulevic quit the team and was replaced as back up goalkeeper by midfielder Franz Zwicklbauer performing a dual role.
On the pitch the Capitals made the play offs for the first time, but were knocked out by the Fort Lauderdale Strikers in the first round. Mike Masters finished as leading goal scorer with 14 goals. Paul Mariner and Chico Borja were voted on to the inaugural APSL All-star team.They finished the 20 game season in second place of the American Conference with a record of 14 wins and 6 losses, scoring 35 and conceding 22.
At the end of the season John Bramley’s 3 year contract expired, and he signed an extension for the upcoming 1991 season. Paul Mariner stayed on as player/assistant coach.
Newcomers for the 1991 season included Yugoslav striker Zoran Savic (Orlando Lions), English defender Shaun Elliott (Colchester United), Northern Irishman Jimmy McGeough Jnr. (Miami Freedom), and forward Jorge Acosta. They lost Elvis Comrie, Chico Borja, Bob Cummings and English defender Steve Stokoe.
Their reconfigured American Conference included the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, Tampa Bay Rowdies, Penn-Jersey Spirit, and Miami Freedom.
The Capitals won their opening game 1-0 against the Tampa Bay Rowdies in Tampa.
The Capitals again made the playoffs in the 1991 season, finishing in second place in the American conference. Their regular season record was 21 games played, with 10 wins and 11 losses. They scored 27 goals and conceded 29. They had joint top scorers, Mike Masters & Ramiro Borja who scored 7 goals apiece. Borja made the APSL All-star team.
They beat the Maryland Bays in the first round of play offs, before losing the APSL championship game to the San Francisco Bay Blackhawks. This would be the team’s last competitive game.
The Capitals folded at the end of the 1991 season.