The Atlanta Attack were a professional indoor soccer team from Atlanta, Georgia. They were founded in 1989, but only lasted for 2 seasons until the franchise was moved to Kansas City in 1991. They played their first season (1989-1990) in the American Indoor Soccer Association (AISA), which changed it’s name for their second season (1990-91) to the National Professional Soccer League (NPSL).
Their home ground was the Omni Arena in Atlanta, which had a capacity of 15,278. They shared the arena with the Atlanta Hawks of the NBA.
The franchise’s majority owner was Ron Terwilliger. He was the owner of Trammell Crow Residential, a company which is the largest developer of multi-family housing in the USA. The President was announced as Bob Moreland. After 4 games of the season Terwilliger announced he was taking over day-to-day team operations from Moreland, who was sacked.
The Head Coach was American Keith Tozer, who also saw playing time in the 1989-90 season. He stayed for the duration of the team in Atlanta. Prior to taking up the position he had been working as Sales Manager for Boxing at the Forum in Los Angeles. He’d been doing that role since he lost his job as head coach of the Los Angeles Lazers when they went out of business after the 1988-1989 season. Englishman Adrian Brooks was named as player/assistant coach.
For their first season in the AISA the Attack were placed in the American Division, lining up against the Canton Invaders, Hershey Impact, and the Memphis Rogues. Being a new franchise the team participated in both the expansion draft as well as the Amateur draft. In the expansion draft the Attack were allowed to choose 2 players from every existing AISA franchise, although the existing teams were allowed to protect 12 members of their 16 player rosters. In the amateur draft the Attack had first pick in each of 4 rounds. They chose Brian Haynes (1st), Guy Furfaro (2nd), Angelo Panzetta (3rd) and goalkeeper Jon Halliwell (4th). Of these only Haynes would make any impact. In the main draft they chose Hayden Knight from the Milwaukee Wave, a surprise as the veteran ahd only played 5 games the previous season. Knight opted not to sign, and instead continue wih his teaching career. Zoltan Meszaros was drafted from the Chicago Power, but refused to sign a contract as he had a salesman’s job and a new house in Chicago.
Notable players on the roster for the first year were Americans Peter Hattrup and Keith Tozer, Yugoslavs Drago Dumbovic and Zoran Savic, and Trinidadian midfielder Brian Haynes. The team was limited by the league to a 16 man roster.
7 of the Attack’s away fixtures were televised on Channel 46 – WGNX. However after 2 games the Attack announced that it was pulling out of the contract because it couldn’t afford it (franchises paid the TV stations for the air-time). This gave the indication that the team’s finances weren’t quite right. WHCK 105.7 however offered live radio coverage of the Attack for both seasons. Neil Williamson was the colour announcer.
The franchise began life with a home game against the Indiana Kick on the 10th November 1989. They won 23-11 in front of 10,462 fans, which was the largest ever first game total for an expansion team in the AISA. Attendances were low, and the franchise was worried that not many people knew that they even existed, a fact confirmed by the teams President John Durham.
During the season the Attack acquired Zoran Savic, a leading indoor player in a trade with the Memphis Rogues. In return the Rogues got cash, Glenn Lurie and Paul Carollo. During the season goalkeepr John Halliwell was waived and signed with the Chicago Power. He was replaced with Hank Henry from the Dallas Sidekicks. Forward Jeff Rogers was added from the Milwaukee Wave.
Drago Dumbovic, high scoring crowd favourite, was traded out to the Hershey Impact mid-season for English forward Franklin McIntosh. The Impact had drew 4,000 fans to their arena earlier in the season against the Attack by making it a “Stop Drago” night, which confirmed his prowess as a player indoors. The trade turned acrimonius when Drago’s lawyers stated that he was entitled to incentives worth $45,000 that were verbally agreed by Attack team representative’s. Drago stated that he had a “no-cut, no-trade” clause in his contract. This was disputed by Ron Terwilliger. Drago then went to Cobb County Superior Court to get a temporary restraining order blocking the trade. This was denied and he ended up in Hershey making the trade. On Drago’s return to the Omni later in the season, he was welcomed by a fan’s banner proclaiming “Drago Drago Yugoslavian Ball Hog”.
The team played attacking football, constantly pressing the opposition. This high tempo style of play was exciting, although it frequently left them running on empty towards the end of the match and letting in cheap goals.
By the start of March it was estimated that the franchise had already lost $415,000.
The season lasted 40 games, of which the Attack won 23 and lost 17, scoring 443 goals and conceding 382. This placed them second in the division and entered them into the playoffs. They got through the first round beating the Hershey Impact 13-10 and 13-9. For the semi-finals they were paired against the Dayton Dynamo. After crushing the Dynamo 15-2 in the first game, they ended up losing the decisive second game in overtime. They then lost the third game 13-6.
Leading goal scorer for the Attack was Peter Hattrup with 88 goals. Brian Haynes was voted ‘Rookie of the Year’. Hattrup was placed on the AISA All-star team for his performances.
The teams highest attendance was 13,858 against the Memphis Rogues, a season high for the AISA. It’s lowest was 2,622 against the Milwaukee Wave. Approximately the average (as I don’t have all the attendance figures) was around 7,466. This is certainly very on the optimistic side.
As the league’s name changed for the 1990-1991 season, Atlanta again took their place in a re-jigged American Division. They were again alongside the Canton Invaders and Hershey Impact, but also alongside newcomers the New York Kick, and the Detroit Rockers.
Off the field changes included English ex-professional Graham Tutt was named as a Vice-President of Operations. Tutt had played for Charlton in England, in South Africa, and in the States with the Columbus Magic, Atlanta Chiefs and the Georgia Generals. The team’s President John Durham quit after being ask to take a pay cut. Majority owner Ron Terwilliger was named the NPSL’s Executive Committee Chairman. Vernon Riggs was promoted to the position of General Manager, having only been assistant GM the previous season. He had also previously been in charge of Marketing for the MISL’s Wichita Wings.
In the off season the Attack signed goalkeeper A.J. Lachowski from the MISL’s Tacoma Stars. Notable players were Polish-American Janusz Michallik, Brian Haynes, Zoran Savic, and English forward Franklin McIntosh.
Before the season in an effort to drum up support the Attack enlisted Atlanta marketing firm T.G. Madison, who ran ads in newspapers and on radio, as well 16 billboards around the city proclaiming “Everybody’s Going Socco!”, with faces with soccer ball eyes.
The team started the season badly, and their defence was the worst in the league, although they still maintained their all-out attack approach of the previous season. Their form turned around though and they embarked on a 7 game winning streak.
During the season they had to release midfielder Chris Hellenkamp to stay within the league’s $132,000 salary cap. Defender Todd Smith was traded to the Hershey Impact for cash and a 2nd round draft pick. After the success of their first season Atlanta were given the honour of hosting the NPSL All-star game, however with attendances lower, Ron Terwilliger was non-committal about their future for the flowing season. Midfielder John Diffley was waived. Star player Franklin McIntosh was traded back to the Hershey Impact for defender Larry Julius. Coach Keith Tozer was showered with water and ice cubes after his 100th career AISA/NPSL coaching victory.
Attendances were low. 1,786 (2nd lowest in franchise history) paid to see them play the Illinois Thunder. By the end of January 1st year GM Vernon Riggs was fired by the owner due to the attendances. Graham Tutt also resigned, and the team went on a five game losing streak. By April the players weren’t sure if they were going to be getting their salaries due to ‘cash-flow problems’. Ron Terwilliger stated he wouldn’t be sure if he was going to bring back the franchise until he saw how well financially the Atalanta Attack’s summer coaching schools went. Due to finances they cancelled the WHCK radio broadcasts, only to be met by a fans backlash. The broadcasts were restarted for the playoffs. Also both playoff games were to be held in Dayton, as the Omni was already booked.
They finished the division second after the 40 game regular season, behind the all-powerful Canton Invaders again. They won 25 and lost 15 of their 40 games, scoring 544 and conceding 401. For the second year running they crashed out of the playoffs to the Dayton Dynamo, this time in the first round losing 11-6 and 17-6.
Yugoslav Zoran Savic was the team’s leading goals and assists scorer with 56 and 33 respectively.
The average attendance (again an approximate figure) was around 3,748. It was revealed that the Omni was charging the Attack the highest rent in professional soccer, indoor or outdoor.
Tom Kenny a businessman who made his fortune through 1-800 numbers, began negotiating to buy the franchise, however this came to nothing.On September 4th the franchise was moved to Kansas City ready for the 1991-1992 season, becoming the Kansas City Attack. Terwilliger retained a minority ownership stake, the majority stake was owned by Chris Economides & Lou Gatsis, who had been trying to get an NPSL franchise in Rochester off the ground without much success. Coach Keith Tozer and nearly the whole roster followed the franchise to Kansas City.
In total they played 80 regular season games, winning 48 and losing 32, scoring 987 and conceding 783. In the playoffs they won 3 and lost 4 games, scoring 65 and conceding 70.