Message from me

Hi,

Just a quick post to say thank you all for reading, and if you have any suggestions about which clubs, players, coaches, or anything American soccer related that you want me to write about, please let me know.

Also, if you have any memories about any teams, queries, words of wisdom, or anything, please let me know. If you want to contribute something to the blog you can, just send me whatever you like.

I had a bit of a slow patch due to work commitment, but i’m hoping to profile one team a week (maybe more for the teams who had a bit more of a lengthy run as a professional soccer team). I might start writing shorter player profiles, but at the minute i’m loving writing about the teams.

Anyway, that’s enough from me – have a good one!

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Miami Americans

The Miami Americans were a professional soccer team in the American Soccer League, though they only featured for the 1980 season before folding. The franchise was originally based in New Jersey, but in the early months of 1980 the New Jersey Americans owner Joseph Raymond sold the franchise to an English consortium that moved the team to Miami. In the process of the move the new owners dispensed with most of the playing and back office staff.

The Americans played their home games at the Tropical Park stadium, a 10,000 capacity ground in the Olympia Heights area of Miami.

The Miami Americans Stadium - Tropical Park

The ASL in 1980 was to be an 8 team league, split into 2 four team divisions, A National Conference and an American Conference.  The top 2 sides in each division after the regular season would meet in a best of three playoff series to decide who would play in the ASL Championship game. The Americans were placed into the American Conference, lining up against the Sacramento Gold, California Sunshine, and another new franchise, the Golden Gate Gales from San Francisco. The regular season would be 28 games long, with each team playing each other 4 times.

The English investors looking to bring the New Jersey Americans to Miami were named as the artist Barry Leighton-Jones, and broker Stanley Worshore. Both of them were based in South Florida, and co-owned the Fort Lauderdale Saints soccer team of the semi-professional Southern Soccer League.  Jones was quoted as being “very excited” about the move, with a “60-40” chance in favour of the teams move. Even if the team didn’t make the move in time for the 1980 season, they would be prepared to wait for 1981.

The Americans Head Coach and GM, Ron Newman

Before the franchise had been sold the potential English ownership group had begun discussions with Ron Newman about taking the job. Newman had been a successful coach and player in the higher profile North American Soccer League (NASL) with the Dallas Tornado and the Fort Lauderdale Strikers. He had also had a championship winning season in the ASL as Head Coach of the Los Angeles Skyhawks. Newman had been dismissed at the Strikers Head Coach after the 1979 season, although he was in the process of filing papers against the Strikers ownership to collect the money he was owed on his contract. Newman was very interested in the Americans job, and convinced that the sale and move of the team would happen.  He also thought a franchise in Miami could work, although he had frowned about soccer’s potential in Miami before, due to the poor performance of the Miami Toros in the NASL. The media did not quite share his belief however, pointing to the Toros failure, and wondering whether South Florida was a strong enough soccer market to support the Americans and the Strikers.

Despite Newman’s enthusiasm, he was still keeping his options open, speaking to the owners of the New York Eagles of the ASL, and another potential new ASL franchise in Charlotte about their vacant Head Coach positions. The NASL’s San Jose Earthquakes were also chasing him.

By Mid-January 1980 Newman was leaning towards taking the offer made to him by the Americans. The offer of a 5-year contract, worth $200,000 a season (plus bonuses and incentives) would make him the highest paid coach in North America. The deal to move the Americans to Miami was done, but Leighton-Jones and Worshore said that they would not complete the deal without Newman agreeing to coach the team. Newman eventually agreed the deal in February and took the position, also assuming the position as the team President. Fellow Brit Brian Tiler was named as Assistant Coach, having  played for and managed the Portland Timbers of the NASL, as well as having a lengthy playing career in England.

The team’s roster contained few stars. Newman’s son Guy followed his father from the Fort Lauderdale Strikers to play in the defence. One of his first signings was English goalkeeper Brian Parkinson, who had won an ASL championship with Newman at the Los Angeles Skyhawks. Other signings were American players Ernie Buriano, Ernst-Jean Baptiste, and Charlie Greene. Welsh defender Bob Delgado was signed from English side Port Vale after a 281 game league career and installed as captain. Holdovers from the New Jersey Americans roster were midfielder Denny Vaninger and Nigerian striker Solomon Hilton. 33 year old Scottish midfielder and ex-Tampa Bay Rowdies player Stewart Scullion was also signed to give the team some experience. The players with the team were reputedly some of the better paid players in the ASL.

Before the season kicked off Newman had stated that his role with the Americans was the toughest task he had faced in soccer. Due to the short time before the franchises relocation and the start of play (roughly 2 months) he had found it hard to find the players he wanted, as well as an acceptable office to work out of. Despite managing in the ASL before, he also stated that the league was a bit of a mystery to him, with regards to the level of play and finances. He was hoping for crowds of around 3,000 for the early fixtures, steadily rising to 6,000 during the season.

Pre-season games were quite plentiful, playing the U.S. Olympic team, as well as fixtures against local amateur teams such as Miami Dade. Their fixture against the Pennsylvania Stoners caused some controversy however. The game was played in Charlotte and intended to show the Charlotte public what ASL soccer was all about, with the hope that a franchise could be established in the city in 1981. During the first half, and 1-0 down, Denny Vaninger punched the Stoners midfielder Paulo DaSilva in the face, getting sent off in the process. Then after a foul against his son Guy, Ron Newman charged on to the pitch in his suit to remonstrate with the referee.  It was also reported that he “threatened Pennsylvania players and match officials with his umbrella”. The Americans ran out 2-1 winners, although their style of play was described as defensive and boring. In order to establish the franchise in the minds of South Florida soccer fans, the players were doing a huge amount of public engagements, from coaching clinics to visiting local churches and hospitals.

The team’s inaugural game was away against the Pennsylvania Stoners on the 20th of April, a fixture that they lost 1-0 due to a Roman Urbanczuk goal in the second period of overtime. The Stoners broke their attendance record, with 8,300 fans attending the game. Like the reports of their performance in the pre-season encounter between the teams, the game was defensive with both sides mustering only 9 shots on goal between them during the 90 minutes. Newman defended his team, instead criticising the pitch at the Stoners stadium, saying it was impossible to play on. Their second fixture was due to be against New York United away, but the game had to be postponed due to New York being unable to post the $100,000 bond required for them to use Shea Stadium.

After their first game, the Americans signed Haitian international forward Manu Sanon from Belgian club Germinal Beerschot. He signed a 3 year contract and was expected to be a key player for the team. Their first home fixture was against Cleveland Cobras on the 30th April which they lost, and attracting around 2,000 fans.

On May the 4th the Miami Americans were due to play an exhibition match against the Trinidad & Tobago national team; however it descended into farce when the Trinidadian failed to turn up. Instead the Americans played an inter-squad game in front of roughly 300 fans. Still at least the Americans were guaranteed to win this game, as by their 6th game the Americans had only won 1 ASL game, beating the Golden Gate Gales away in San Francisco 4-1. Their attendances were also stalling, with a 2-2 draw at home against the Gales attracting only 1,843 fans, over a thousand less than Newman wanted.

The attendance figures weren’t the biggest problem however. The team’s co-owner Barry Leighton- Jones had started saying that if the ASL failed to improve they would move the franchise to Jacksonville for the 1981 season. Leighton-Jones also stated that the team was going to lose $1,000,000 dollars over the season, and that Newman was to blame for the team’s slow start due to spending too much time sat behind the President’s desk rather than working with the team.  Newman responded saying that these remarks had hurt the credibility of the franchise, and that he had had to spend all his day apologizing to sponsors and fans, as well as being called to explain the comments before the ASL at a league meeting. He also insisted that there was no way the team would relocate, and that Leighton-Jones remarks were made as a frustrated fan, rather than as an owner. Newman insisted that he got on with the co-owner, and that his remarks had maybe been a misguided attempt to get more fans on board. According to goalkeeper Brain Parkinson, the team were fairly insulated from the comments, and that they were fully concentrated on performing better on the field.

In early June, Newman was being linked with the Head Coach position of the NASL’s Portland Timbers, with a meeting between him and Timbers’ General Manager Peter Warner after a Timbers game.  Newman had expressed a desire to leave the Americans, but said it would be up to NASL teams to contact him. After losing out on the Timbers job to Vic Crowe, the Atlanta Chiefs had also reputedly spoken to him. He was concerned about the financial viability of the Americans, amidst rumours that the ownership were ready to jump ship. And that the team was ready to fold. On a positive note, English goalkeeper Neil Ramsbottom joined the team. He had been a steady goalkeeper in England and signed from Sheffield United.

On June 19th, after only 9 games at the helm Ron Newman resigned as Head Coach and President. He stated that he would still be available to offer advice to the team whilst he searched for a new job. His 9 games in charge had yielded 2 wins, 3 draws, and 4 losses. One of the team’s directors, Richard Marx (not the long haired pop star) stated that he was sorry to see Newman go, but with the Americans finances being quite perilous it was an economic necessity.

To replace Newman, his Assistant Coach Brian Tiler was appointed for the remainder of the season. The team’s Business Manager Jerry Sagehorn was promoted, and would take over as General Manager, assuming a lot of Newman’s off-field responsibilities.

Tiler’s first game in charge saw them win 2-1 over New York United in Shea Stadium in front of Ron Newman who watched from the stands.

On June the 25th, six days after Newman’s departure, the English ownership group had reputedly agreed to sell the franchise to two Rhodesians, Stan Noah and Archie Oliver for an undisclosed purchase price. Noah and Oliver stated that there would be a “substantial infusion of capital” into the team. They also attempted to re-hire Newman as Head Coach, but baulked and reinstating his $200,000 a year contract.

Results improved under Tiler, but the attendances dwindled, with only 843 fans turning out to see them beat the California Sunshine 2-1. Neil Ramsbottom was playing well in goal, and getting good reviews for his performances. Against the Sunshine he turned out straight from hospital, where he had been with bruised ribs and a stitched up face. The infusion of capital that the new owners had promised didn’t seem to materialise, with the team’s roster basically being limited to just 13 players. Top striker Manu Sanon left and joined Ron Newman and his new NASL team, the San Diego Sockers, and after selling him the Americans would lose 7 of their next 8 games. With him also went the Americans Haitian fans, leaving attendances plummeting.

Americans Haitian striker Manu Sanon

Off the field the chaos continued however, with newly promoted General Manager Jerry Sagehorn quitting, and being replaced by Allan James, the Americans PR officer. According to Brian Tiler, Sagehorn just couldn’t take the aggravation of working with the financially crippled franchise any longer. The Director Richard Marx was named as President.  Brian Tiler was also fed up working with the franchise, but vowed to continue as a professional. He claimed that the new owners wanted him out to save money and hadn’t even spoken to him in a long time.

The financial situation was also being discussed by the players, with Bob Delgado stating that he didn’t know if there would even be a club next week, let alone next year. He had just put rent money down on an apartment, and at best if the team folded would only get 2 week’s severance pay. What made it worse was that a week early the new ownership had said every member of the team would get a new 12 month contract, but now the ownership was even backing down on completing the entire purchase of the team. Stan Noah and Archie Oliver instead had apparently bought a controlling interest in the Columbus Magic, one of the Americans ASL rivals. This was met with some scepticism given the events in Miami, and also due to the pair of them reputedly trying to save the Sacramento Gold who were in financial difficulty. The Gold folded, but were resurrected and funded until the end of the season by the ASL.

In early July the ownership were set to fire Tiler and replace him with George Rada, the Head Coach of the semi-professional Florida outfit, the St. Petersburg Kickers, but the players objected and Tiler’s job was saved.

On July 23rd though Tiler quit and Rada was named as the new Head Coach. The ownership had stated that they wanted an American coach instead of a foreigner. Captain Bob Delgado, and striker Denny Vaninger were named as Assistant Coaches, in addition to their place on the playing roster.

At the start of August English goalkeeper Neil Ramsbottom requested to be released from his contract so he could return to his pregnant wife in England. He had played 14 games for the Americans and was replaced by the back-up keeper Richie Poole. 18 year old Fort Lauderdale High graduate Mitchell Mordas was signed as the new back-up. A week after this, Haiti international defender Ernst-Jean Baptiste also left the club to return to his sick wife in Haiti and midfielder David Bluem also left. New additions to the roster were new goalkeeper Armand Cordoba, defender Daniel Gaston, midfielders Mike Cogan & Jean Tienne, and strikers Louis Rodriguez, and Kenny Pavlioski. The forwards were needed as striker Denny Vaninger had been banned by the league for the rest of the season, having been sent off in the Americans last 3 away games.

The Americans win record was boosted by their home game against the Columbus Magic being awarded to them as the Magic could not afford the travelling expenses. This was the second game where the Americans had profited from another team’s misfortune, with the Sacramento Gold also forfeiting a game during the season. Remarkably, despite the Americans own financial problems, the Americans were still in with a shout for the playoffs.

For the Miami Americans last ever home game they were thumped 8-2 by the Cleveland Cobras in front of a crowd of around 200 fans. Defender Ernesto summed up the feelings of the entire roster by stating that they didn’t care. The players had not been paid, and the money situation was so bad that even though they still had a chance of making the playoffs, Miami officials were praying that they didn’t because it would cost more money. Bob Delgado stated that of they did make the playoffs he wouldn’t stick around, instead he’d be back in England.

The Americans did not have a successful season, finishing third in the American Conference, thus missing out on the playoffs. They won 10 games, drawing 3, and losing the other 15. They scored 54 goals and conceded 45, giving the Americans a total point’s tally of 97.

After the season the Miami Americans folded, along with the other new franchise the Golden Gate Gales.

Los Angeles Lazers

The Los Angeles Lazers were a professional indoor soccer team who played in the Major Indoor Soccer League (MISL) between 1982 and 1989. They played their home games at the 15,893 capacity Forum in Inglewood, a city in south western Los Angeles County.

The Lazers franchise was awarded on the 26th June 1982 by MISL commissioner Earl Foreman, having previously operated as the Philadelphia Fever for the MISL 1981-82 season. The franchise was sold to real estate magnate Jerry Buss who moved it to Los Angeles where his sports empire was based. Buss owned 90% of the franchise, with another 10% belonging to Gene De Piano, President of the Rancho Bank of San Dimas. Buss had started in sports as one of the owners in the World Team Tennis League before buying the Los Angeles Lakers NBA franchise and the Los Angeles Kings in the NHL. He also owned the Forum where all of his sports franchises played.  The Lazers were the MISL’s 13th franchise, and if the ownership had paid more attention to superstition may have gained an inkling into the future performance of the franchise.

Buss named his 25 year old son John as the Lazers President. His Vice President was named as Bill Sharman, who was the President of the Lakers. The former Assistant General Manager of the Kings, Parker McDonald, was named as General Manager.

For the Lazers inaugural 1982-83 season, Englishman Peter Wall was named as head coach. Wall was new to indoor soccer, but had played over 250 league games in England, as well as featuring for the St. Louis Stars & California Surf in the NASL. Whilst plating for the Surf he also handled the Head Coach role for the last 3 seasons of the franchise’s existence.

The team’s roster for its first season had a familiar look to it for fans of the NASL. English defender Clive Charles signed, along with American international Poli Garcia. Other standouts would be future American international defender Cle Kooiman, Bermudan international forward Clyde Best, English midfielder Don Tobin, and Greek defender Gus Mokalis. The goalkeeping position would be shared between Americans Gary Allison and Kirk Shermer.

The Lazers were placed in the MISL’s Western Division, lining up against the Wichita Wings, Kansas City Comets, St. Louis Steamers, Phoenix Inferno, and 2 teams from the outdoor NASL, the Golden Bay Earthquakes and the San Diego Sockers.

The Lazers debuted on November 5th, with a home match against the Phoenix Inferno, which ended in defeat. In fact the Lazers didn’t start the season well, losing their first 9 games straight. Even motivational pre-game talks by Jerry Buss seemed to have little effect. They slightly changed the roster after the 9th game, with Argentine forward Eduardo Marasco (9 games 5 goals) leaving and English defender Lee Cornwell coming in. They didn’t register their win until they beat the Memphis Americans in December; nearly a month after the season had started. For their next game out they reverted to type, blowing a 4-1 lead to lose 9-7 to the Wichita Wings.

The fans veered from being supportive of the team, to booing them after performances. By the 21st game the team had a record of 3 wins and 18 losses. The team also had problems with injuries, sometimes only naming 14 players for the game, instead of the 16 allowed. Wall told the press that he was unsure what the Lazers had to do to win a game, and how many chances they needed to score. He suggested that the team “should start going to church”.

On January 19th, General Manager Parker MacDonald quit, with President John Buss assuming his role on a temporary basis.

The Lazers first season was not a successful one, finishing dead last of the Western Division with the worst record of any team in the MISL. OF the 48 game season, the Lazers won only 8 games and losing the other 40.They scored the fewest goals of any team (191) and had the second worst record for goals conceded (286). The teams leading goal scorer was Poli Garcia with 41, whilst Don Tobin lead the way with 29 assists. Garcia was the leading points scorer overall with 65.The only bright spot was that goalkeeper Kirk Shermer was unanimously named the MISL ‘Rookie of the Year’ by the Professional Soccer Reporters Association. The average attendance was a measly 3,963, far short of the 7-8,000 needed for the team to break even. The Lazers were also branded as “failures” by Basketball superstar Kareem-Abdul Jabbar, who was in a contractual dispute over money with Jerry Buss.

Despite the poor debut season, Wall was appointed a new 2 year contract as Head Coach in the close season.

For the 1983-84 season the team operated a slightly smaller roster for the second season, with quite a few changes. The key players from the previous season (Best, Kooiman, Tobin, Garcia & Shermer) were retained, but with some new additions. In came Brazilians Beto & Batata, Englishmen Stuart Lee & Mark Lindsay. Other players coming back for a second season were English defenders Lee Cornwell and Alan Kelley, Colombian striker Willie Molano, and Greek defender Gus Mokalis. Despite winning the ‘Rookie of the Year’ award the previous season, goalkeeper Kirk Shermer was reduced to the bench, behind new English goalie Mike Mahoney.

Just after the start of the season the Brazilian Batata signed a 3 year contract. The 28 year old midfielder’s transfer fee from Mexican side Club America was reputedly $250,000, and he was also named as Assistant Coach. His reputation was greatly enhanced by the fact that he had played alongside Pele for Santos in Brazil. He debuted with 3 goals in an 8-3 victory over the New York Arrows. In February Batata and forward Poli Garcia were both named to the MISL Western Division’s All Star team.

The team was again placed in a slightly smaller Western Division, this year lining up against the Wichita Wings, St. Louis Steamers, Tacoma Stars, Kansas City Comets, and the Phoenix Pride for a playoff position.

The Lazers opening game of the season was a 6-2 win away at the newly formed Tacoma Stars in front of 12,284 fans, more than the Lazers would ever play in front of at the Forum .Their first home game came against the Kansas City Comets.

The team’s record was much improved on their debut season, finishing 3rd in the division after the 48 game regular season, thus qualifying for the playoffs for the first time. The regular season ended with an even 24 wins and losses, scoring 223 goals and conceding 239. The Lazers fell in the first round of the playoffs however, losing in a best of 5 series against the Wichita Wings. Poli Garcia again led the way on the field, scoring a team-high 39 goals and making 33 assists for a total points score of 72. The Brazilian duo of Beto and Batata also had strong debut seasons. This meant he rated as the 7th best points scorer in the MISL. Attendance rose slightly, but was still a disappointing 4,405 average. Peter Wall was rewarded for the Lazers better performance, by being named runner up as ‘Coach of the Year’.

The 1984-85 season saw the Lazers start with a few new additions to the roster. Gone were Don Tobin, Clyde Best, Kirk Shermer, and Mark Lindsay. Newcomers were the Yugoslav striker Zoran Savic, South African defender Nathan Sacks, and the Canadian defender Greg Ion.  Wall was again Head Coach, as the team had made a steady improvement on the field over the 2 previous seasons. Ron Weinstein was named as Vice President for the Lazers. Gary Hindley was named as Assistant Coach of the team.

The team started their 3rd season in the Western Division, but with again a slight re-jigging of the teams. Familiar foes were the Tacoma Stars, Wichita Wings, Kansas City Comets, with the San Diego Sockers. Completing the line up were 2 new franchises, the Dallas Sidekicks, and the Las Vegas Americans (previously the Memphis Americans). Overall the MISL was stronger than previous seasons. The collapse of the NASL had led to a lot of experienced players seeking contracts, as well as 4 teams quitting outdoor soccer to play indoors. It also ended the bidding war for talent that had erupted between the leagues, and cemented the MISL as THE professional soccer league in America.

The Lazers again finished 3rd in their division, with an exact replica of the previous year’s form, 24 wins and 24 losses.  Even their goals scored and conceded were nearly the same, scoring 232 and conceding 230. They qualified for the Quarter Finals of the playoffs where they were whitewashed 3-0 by the Baltimore Blast, going down 4-3, 12-3, and 5-4, thus ending their MISL title chances for another season. The teams leading goalscorer this year was the Englishman Stuart Lee with 42 goals, whilst Poli Garcia again held the assist crown with 31. Lee ended up as overall leading points scorer with 57, 2 clear of Colombian forward Willie Molano. Peter Wall was however named as MISL ‘Coach of the Year’, which seems a little surprising considering the teams rather average performance. The crowds had again picked up, with an average of 5,062 attending the Lazers home games. This was still disappointing as the Forum held over 3 times that amount.

The Lazers returned for the 1985-86 season with Wall still at the helm. The roster had changed little apart from the departure of last season’s top scorer Stuart Lee, and the Yugoslav Zoran Savic. Newcomers were English midfielder David Madden, one-time US prodigy Darryl Gee in midfield, and the German midfielder Kai Steffen. The goalkeeping line-up was unchanged with Englishman Mike Mahoney as number one, and American Tim Harris as back-up.

Bill MacDonald was named as the Lazers Play-by-Play announcer in the close season.

The Western Division had lost the Sidekicks to the Eastern Division, with the St. Louis Steamers moving the opposite way, and the one season Las Vegas Americans who had folded.

Midway through the season with the Lazers not performing well, President Jim Buss stated that the entire roster were playing for their Lazers careers, and only 8-10 players had a chance for a new contract.

This seemed to have an effect on the team, as during an away fixture against the St. Louis Steamers, Peter Wall was ejected in the 4th quarter for throwing water at the referees. He went to the Lazers locker room, but returned later in the quarter to shout instructions from the stand behind the goal. Also, Lazers Brazilian players Batata and Val Fernandez were ejected for lying down on the field play, joining Willie Molano and Cle Kooiman in the sin bin. This game saw the Lazers set the MISL record with 12 penalties, totalling 30 minutes. Due to this St. Louis set the record for most power play goals in MISL history (Power play goals are when the scoring team has an advantage in terms of number of players on the field due to penalties). By the final 3 minutes of the game the Lazers had only 3 players on the pitch. MISL commissioner Francis Dale said the league would be investigating the Lazers conduct and issuing fines if required.

The season also saw tempers fray between the San Diego Sockers and the Lazers. During a game on February 11th, with the Sockers leading 7-4, Sockers coach Ron Newman withdrew his goalkeeper for a 6th attacker with only 3 seconds left to play. This incensed Peter Wall after the game, who said it was “uncalled for”. Newman had been accused of running up scores against beaten teams, which was kind of against an unwritten law between coaches in the MISL. Newman said he was purely using the time to experiment with his line up.  When the 3 seconds of play resumed Lazers defender Greg Willen kicked the Sockers forward Ade Coker, which Newman stated was “one of the worst things i’ve seen in soccer”. When the final hooter went, Wall approached Newman and jabbed his fingers in Newman’s eyes resulting in a brawl between the 2 teams. At the All-Star game a week later Newman attempted to shake hands and apologize, but was snubbed by Wall. Before the teams next encounter in April, Wall stated that the game would be “a blood bath”. In fact the game passed off peacefully and Newman and Wall shook hands at the end of the game, making their peace.

The 48 game season was not a successful one for the Lazers. They finished the 48 game season with a record of only 13 wins and 35 losses, meaning they were dead last of the Western Division. They scored only 197 goals (2nd worst by one goal), and conceded a season high 270 goals.

Poli Garcia was the team’s highest goal scorer with 36, whilst the Brazilian Batata registered most assists with 39. Garcia was the team’s leading point scorer with 57. The average attendance fell back to 4,470, far short of the MISL’s 8,696 average for the season.

The team decided to retain Peter Wall as Head Coach for the 1986-87 season, but the feeling was that the team would soon have to start performing better for him to keep the job. The team’s Assistant Coach Gary Hindley left to become Assistant at the Chicago Sting, and was replaced by the Lazers recently retired goalkeeper Mike Mahoney.

The 1986-87 season would see the team have a lot less settled roster, with 33 players having game-time with the Lazers. Mike Mahoney’s, place on the roster was filled by the American David Brcic, with Tim Harris as back up. Also one of the teams key players, the Brazilian Batata, was traded to the Chicago Sting for future considerations and $5,000. English striker Stuart Lee returned after a season’s absence, and the Lazers also signed American defenders Paul Kitson and Jim Gabarra.

For the first time the Western Division did not lose or gain and teams, so the opposition would be familiar, however the regular season had been expanded to 52 games instead of 48. Another bonus was ESPN covering more MISL games than ever, with 18 matches available this season. A concern for the league was the improving performance of a rival nationwide indoor soccer league, the AISA (American Indoor Soccer Association). It looked as if a new bidding war for players was going to erupt between the 2 leagues.

1986 Los Angeles Lazers TV advert.

In January, with the team underperforming, Peter Wall was dismissed.  According to the Lazers president Jim Buss, the sacking of Wall was the first step in a new direction for the team. Buss stated he would “do whatever it takes to improve this team and make it a winner”.  Buss also stated that Wall was a terrific person and a good friend, who had been an excellent spokesperson for the Lazers and soccer as a whole in Los Angeles. Goalkeeper Mike Mahoney was named as interim Head Coach. Under Wall’s charge the Lazers had a record of 75 wins and 134 losses. A fair few coaches expressed interest in taking the position, including Don Popovic and John Kowalski. In the end Wall’s replacement was named as the American coach Keith Tozer, who stated that he was surprised to be given the role as he felt the other candidates were far more experienced. Tozer was brought over from the Louisville Thunder of the rival AISA. He had acted as player-coach of the Thunder, but would take up a strictly coaching role with the Lazers.

Tozer’s first 7 games yielded only one win, but the team had undergone wholesale changes, with Tozer promising even more as he seeked to reduce the average age of the roster. In came English defender Chris Whyte and American midfielder Michel Collins from the fading New York Express. Also incoming were Nigerian forward Thompson Usiyan (Minnesota Strikers), Chris Chueden (trade with Cleveland Force for Paul Kitson), and Don Ebert and Steve Pecher from the St. Louis Steamers (traded for Poli Garcia and Jim Kavanaugh). Usiyan was traded for Canadian defender Greg Ion and a 3rd round draft choice.

The season was again a disaster for the Lazers, for the 2nd season running finishing dead last of the Western Division. Their 52 game season yielded only 16 wins, and 36 losses, scoring 183 goals and conceding 254. The teams leading goal scorer was Stuart Lee with only 31 goals, whilst Canadian defender Greg Ion registered most assists with a paltry 18. Lazers’ mainstay Poli Garcia only featured in 20 games, scoring 9 and making 5 assists. The overall leading points scorer was Stuart Lee with 41, which was pretty abysmal. The average attendance was largely unchanged, standing at 4,647. The Lazers poor performance was becoming a source of concern for the league. They were the largest market area, but still underperforming on the field and in the stands.

There were wholesale changes to the Lazers roster for the 1987-88 season after the poor form of the past 2 seasons. The only notable players to avoid the purge were defenders Jim Gabarra and Chris Whyte, striker Thompson Usiyan, goalkeeper David Brcic, and midfielder Michael Collins. Out went Stuart Lee, the long serving Cle Kooiman and Lee Cornwell, Brazilian defender Beto and Colombian striker Willie Molano. Gus Mokalis left for San Diego in a trade for 3 draft picks. In their place came strikers Chico Borja and NASL legend Paul Child, American midfielder Mark Frederickson and defender Mike Windischmann.

The MISL Western Division was unchanged for a second successive season, so the Lazers had a mountain to climb considering the dismal performance of the team in their last 2 campaigns. The regular season was again expanded, this time to 56 games. A bright point for the decade old MISL was the 2 year TV deal signed with the FNN/SCORE network. The deal included a Friday “Game of the Week”, a weekly highlight show, the playoffs and championship game, as well as the end of season all-star game. Each team’s salary cap was set at $1,275,000.

The season began with controversy when new striker Chico Borja was arrested for allegedly punching a 13 year old Tacoma Stars fan in the mouth following a game in Tacoma. Borja could have been imprisoned but the charges were later dropped.

Nearing the end of the season the bidding war with the AISA for talent had really heated up, as was begin to take a toll on some of the more precariously financed franchises. The league asked the MISL Player’s Association (MISLPA) to accept a plan to reduce the player’s salary compensation cap. After negotiations an agreement was reached for a 2 years stabilization deal.

The Lazers had a complete turnaround this year, recorded the franchises best ever stats. They finished the season in their highest place (2nd), with their best record (31 wins and 25 losses) and in the process scoring 291 goals and conceding 266. Disappointingly however they again fell at the first hurdle in the playoffs, being whitewashed by the Kansas City Comets 9-6, 4-2, 7-5. The teams leading goal scorer was the Nigerian Thompson Usiyan with 52, narrowly topping Chico Borja’s 47 goal return. Borja however made the most assists with 52, and finished as overall leading points scorer with 98, placing him 4th overall in the MISL scoring chart (Usiyan came in 7th). Attendances were a franchise high average of 5,879 per game.

During the close season the MISL and the MISLPA again met to discuss the financial ill-health of a number of the league and franchises like the Lazers. An agreement for a 4-year collective bargaining agreement was made with the players, which imposed a salary cap of $850,000 per team for the forthcoming season. Jim Buss had originally stated that he was going to close the team rather than play in a league with less than 8 teams, but after the talks decided to keep the team operational. They paid their $400,000 letter of credit to the MISL for the forthcoming season.

After his good debut performance, Keith Tozer was retained to coach the team for the 1988-89 season.

The roster again had a major overhaul, with only Jim Gabarra, Cha Cha Namdar, Michael Collins, and Mark Frederickson being retained. Top scorers Usiyan and Borja left the team, and were replaced by the Englishmen Gary Heale and Steve Kinsey. They also signed Canadian indoor goal machine Hector Marinaro, defender Fernando Clavijo, and American midfielder Daryl Doran. The goalkeeping duties would be shared between Jim Gorsek, A.J. Lachowecki, and Kris Peat.

The MISL had lost 5 franchises in the close season due to financial ill-health, so the 2 divisions were merged to form one national league of only 7 teams. The Lazers were lining up for a 48 game regular season against the San Diego Sockers, Tacoma Stars, Wichita Wings, Dallas Sidekicks, Baltimore Blast, and the Kansas City Comets.

The Lazers finished their last season in 6th position, and missed out on the playoffs. Their record was 21 wins and 27 defeats, scoring 218 and conceding 222. The team’s leading goal scorer was Marinaro with 47, and Heale registered the most assists with 29. Overall leading point’s scorer was Marinaro with 75, which left him 5th in the MISL leading point’s scorers, with Heale a further position back. The team’s average attendance was 4,356.

After the season the Lazers folded due to heavy financial losses.

MISL regular season record:

348 games played, with 137 wins and 211 losses. They scored 1,535 goals, conceding 1,767.

MISL playoff record:

10 games played, with 1 win and 9 losses. They scored 45 goals and conceded 66.

All-time leading goal scorer: Poli Garcia (165 goals)

All-Time assist maker: Poli Garcia (117 assists)

Most regular season appearances: Poli Garcia (228 games)

Their total average regular season attendance over the franchise history was 33,082 –leading to a season average of 4,726 fans per game. As the team needed to draw upwards of 7,000 to break even, this shows how much money the Lazers were losing every season.

Buffalo Blizzard

The Buffalo Blizzard were a professional indoor soccer team who played in the NPSL (National Professional Soccer League) between 1992 and 2001. The MSL (Major Soccer League, formerly the Major Indoor Soccer League) had hoped that the Blizzard would join them, upping the number of active franchises and making the league a viable concern. The Blizzard turned them down and opted to join the NPSL instead, even though it was a less prestigious league.

The Blizzard were founded and owned by brothers Seymour H. Knox III and Northrup R. Knox, and Robert and Melinda Rich. The Knox brothers also owned the Buffalo Sabres of the NHL, whilst the Rich’s owned the minor league Baseball franchise the Buffalo Bisons. The Knox brothers were great philanthropists and heirs to the Woolworths chain of shops. Northrup Knox is also chairman of the Marine Midland Bank. Melinda Rich was the President of the Rich Entertainment Group, and has sat on the boards of many companies and foundations. Michael DeRose was a Limited Partner in the Blizzard, and owned DeRose Food Brokers Ltd, he was also the ex-owner of the Buffalo Braves NBA franchise. Another limited partner was John Bellanti, previously the owner of the Buffalo Stallions MISL franchise, who had made his money in the oil and lube business. He was also named as the team’s President. The ownership group was named the Greater Buffalo Soccer Inc.

Ex-professional player Jim May was named as the franchise’s General Manager and Vice-President .May had played in goal with the Buffalo Stallions in the MISL (Major Indoor Soccer League), and owned the Sportsplex indoor soccer facility in North Tonawanda. Chris Schoepflin was named Community Director.

Their first home arena was the Buffalo Memorial Auditorium between 1992 and 1996, which had a capacity of 16,433. The Blizzard shared the arena with the Buffalo Bandits of the National Lacrosse League, and the Buffalo Stampede of the In-Line Roller Hockey League. The arena was owned by the City of Buffalo. The ownership hoped to get an average 8,500 fans to attend per game. The rent for the Auditorium was set at $65,000 per season.

The first Head Coach of the franchise was Englishman Trevor Dawkins, who had been coach of the Cleveland Crunch the previous season. Dawkins wanted a competitive team right from the start, saying that there were enough decent players available. Scotsman David Hoggan was signed from the Cleveland Crunch in a dual role as player and Assistant Coach.

The Blizzards inaugural season was in 1992-1993. This was a golden year for the NPSL as with main competitor the MSL folding, the teams were not in a costly salary war and had all the best players available. The Blizzard were placed in the 7 team American Division, lining up against the Baltimore Spirit, Canton Invaders, Cleveland Crunch, Dayton Dynamo, Detroit Rockers, and the Harrisburg Heat. WMBX-AM covered all 40 Blizzard games on the radio, Clip Smith did play-by-play, and Sean McCrossan did analysis.

Their inaugural roster featured defender Ralph Black, English forward Paul Dougherty, Kris Kelderman, and Buffalo brothers and indoor soccer legends, Randy and Rudy Pikuzinski. Randy was signed in a trade with the Chicago Power that took Chuck Codd, Russ Prince, and Ko Thandabouth to the Power. Other notable names included goalkeeper Jamie Swanner, who had been part of the hugely successful Canton Invaders team in the AISA/NPSL.

The first game for the Buffalo Blizzard was a stunning 15-7 victory over the Denver Thunder in front of 10,953 fans. Rudy Pikuzinski scored 5 goals on his debut.
The Blizzard were strong offensively through the season, but struggled in defence.
After the regular season the Blizzard placed 3rd in the American Division and qualified for the playoffs. They won 23 and lost 17 of their 40 games, scoring 570 goals and conceding 503. In the playoff quarter-finals the Blizzard were paired against the Cleveland Crunch. Despite winning the first game of the best-of-three series 20-13, they lost the final two 12-6 and 13-6 and were eliminated.
The teams leading player was Rudy Pikuzinski who scored the most goals (67), registered the most assists (36) and scored the most points 165. This left him finishing 4th in the leading NPSL points scorer list. He also made the NPSL All-Star team.

Their average attendance for the season was 7,068.

For the 1993-1994 season the Blizzard were again in the American Division, this time without the Detroit Rockers who had been moved to the National Division. The NPSL signed a deal for some games to be aired nationally on ESPN. Peter K. O’Connell was named as Assistant General Manager to Jim May.

New faces on the roster included Argentinian Ernie Buriano. Draft picks included Chris Majewski and Nino Galich.

The Blizzard opened the season on November 6th with a game against the Kansas City Attack. They won, with Dave Hoggan scoring a hat-trick in front of a record attendance for a home Blizzard game of 12,873.
They broke the attendance record during the season when 13,262 fans showed up to see them play the Dayton Dynamo.

After the 40 game regular season the Blizzard finished 3rd again in the division, and qualified for the playoffs. They won 19 goals and lost 21, scoring 499 and conceding 515. For the second year running they faced the Crunch in the 1st round of the playoffs. They lost the first game 24-16, won the second 16-12 before going down 13-8 in the decider.

Their average attendance for the season was 8,435.

After the season Trevor Dawkins was sacked as Head Coach on June 22nd 1994, along with his assistant David Hoggan. VP Jim May said that he felt the team had “taken a step backwards in the 1993-1994 season”, and that they had underachieved. Dawkins was replaced with 31 year old Peter Skouras. Skouras was a Greek-American and after the NASL folded had spent 5 years playing professionally in Greece with Olympiakos, Diagoras, and Volos (although in 5 years he only made around 15 appearances). Chris Schoepflin was promoted from Community Director to PR Director. Jim May vowed to make the team more aggressive and high scoring, as well as having a younger roster.

For the 1994-95 season the NPSL American Division line-up was unchanged.

The roster included defender Michael Collins, Gino DiFlorio, and Canadian goalkeeper Rob Marinaro, brother of indoor soccer superstar Hector Marinaro. To rival him for the goalkeeping position was Canadian national team player, Pat Harrington. Harrington was signed because the Blizzard had traded Jamie Swanner to the St. Louis Ambush for their goalkeeper Jeff Robben, cash, and a 3rd round draft pick. Robben failed to report for training so they signed Harrington who cobined olaying with being appointed an Assistant Coach (although Robben did end up playing 10 games for the Blizzard that season).

Coach Skouras was saying he now that the squad that take the team to the “next level”.

The Blizzard won their home opener on November 6th 20-14 against the Chicago Power in front of 7,678 fans. Paul Dougherty scored 4, and new signing DiFlorio 3. It seemed their new brand of attacking football was working. In their 3rd game however they were crushed 26-8 (their record defeat) against the St. Louis Ambush and new Head Coach Skouras was fired and replaced by General Manager and Vice-President, Jim May.
May’s first game was a hard fought 22-16 win against the Detroit Rockers in front of 8,475 fans.

In December the Blizzard scored a coup by signing current U.S. international outdoor goalkeeper Tony Meola. He had failed in a tryout with the New York Jets and was looking for a club. In Meola’s debut away at the Dayton Dynamo he looked shaky s the Blizzard lost 13-11, but looked far better in his home debut against the Detroit Rockers. Attendance for his debut was up to 9,283, the biggest so far that season. Also in December the Blizzard signed forward Andy Crawford from the Detroit Rockers, and Gino DiFlorio received a season ending injury when he tore his right Achilles tendon in a game against the Canton Invaders.

In January Meola announced that he had taken a lead role in the off Broadway play “Tony and Tina’s Wedding”, and left the squad on February 17th after 5 more games. One of these games was the record 23-0 win over the Dayton Dynamo. The Blizzard also played one of their regular season games in Massachusetts at the Centrum. The match was seen as a way of the NPSL seeing how soccer fans would respond to NPSL football in the area, perhaps paving the way for a new franchise. When the Blizzard were making their push for the playoffs they signed Nigerian-born U.S. international striker Jean Harbor.

After the 40 game regular season the Blizzard barely made the playoffs, finishing 4th in their division. They won and lost 20 games, scoring 579 goals and conceding 552. For the 3rd year running they faced the Cleveland Crunch in the 1st round of the playoffs, and for the 3rd year running the Crunch eliminated them. The Crunch won the first game 22-10, lost the 2nd 21-19 in overtime, before winning the deciding game 19-15.

English forward Paul Dougherty was the Blizzards highest scorer with 81 goals, 31 assists, for a total of 171 points. He ranked 6th in the NPSL in scoring that season.
Ernie Buriano retired at the end of the season. The Blizzard began looking for a new Head Coach to replace Jim May, who would be kept on as General Manager and Vice-President. Team President John Bellanti said that they were looking for a “top-flight coach”.

Their average attendance for the season was 7,283.

The American Division for the 1995-1996 season was slightly re-jigged. Along with the regular Baltimore Spirit, Canton Invaders, Cleveland Crunch, and Harrisburg Heat, came the expansion Tampa Bay Terror, and the Cincinnati Silverbacks who had moved from Dayton.

Their search for a new Head Coach had not paid off, so Jim May was left in charge for the 1995-1996 season. Peter O’Connell left his position of Assistant General Manager to set up his own business. In the expansion draft the Blizzard lost Mike Britton to the Tampa Bay Terror, who in turn traded him to the Wichita Wings. Goalkeeper John Howard was signed from the Milwaukee Wave in return for cash and a 1st round draft pick. Veteran Argentine defender Oscar Pisano was signed from the Las Vegas DustDevils, having previously played for the Buffalo Stallions.

During the season Mike Gosselin joined from the Cincinnati Silverbacks in a trade for Matt Kmosko. Todd Pettigrew was signed from the Canton Invaders for a 3rd round draft pick. The Blizzard featured in their highest ever scoring contest in December, when they beat the Cleveland Crunch 28-21 in front of 5,588 fans. Also in December Rudy Pikuzinski was suspended by the Blizzard for 3 games for “conduct detrimental to the team”. The Blizzard lost these three games. Goalkeeper Rob Marinaro was sold to the Harrisburg Heat for cash, as he had slipped to 3rd choice behind Pat Harrington and John Howard.

A mid-season audit showed the Blizzard owed the Memorial Auditorium $61,000 in 3 seasons worth of ticket surcharges. The Blizzard broke their attendance record when 13,354 fans came to watch them play the Harrisburg Heat on a School Kids Day promotion. On March 26th, President John Bellanti confirmed he was in negotiations to purchase the team. Also in March the Blizzard acquired 2 players from the Canton invaders, English defender Denzil Antonio, and Argentinian forward Marcelo Carrera for cash and future considerations.

The Blizzard won 21 and lost 19 of their 40 regular season games, scoring 562 goals and conceding 586. They again qualified for the playoffs and were again facing their nemesis, the Cleveland Crunch, in the 1st round of playoffs. Consistently, they went out after 3 games, losing 25-15 in the first game, winning the 2nd to keep them in it 20-17, before winning the decider 17-11.

The Blizzard’s leading goal scorer was the again the Englishman Paul Dougherty with 50 goals. Argentine Marcelo Carrera was the leading points scorer with the team, making 43 assists and scoring 125 points. Andy Crawford set a team record by scoring in 26 consecutive games. Defender Rudy Doliscat and Canadian midfielder Mauro Biello were named on the NPSL All-Rookie team.

After the season finished Paul Dougherty left the Blizzard and the NPSL to move to the CISL (Continental Indoor Soccer League) with the Houston Hotshots. The CISL was a summer league. He had played 149 games and scored 221 goals.

Their average attendance for the season was 6,364.

In the off-season co-owner Seymour Knox III died in Boston from cancer. The Blizzard persuaded the City of Buffalo to lower their rent at the Memorial Auditorium by $15,000 per season after arguing that the team was losing money and the rent was too high. Rent was now set at $50,000 per season.

For the 1996-1997 season the NPSL was split into two conferences with two divisions in each. The Blizzard were placed in the North Division of the National Conference, alongside the Detroit Rockers, Edmonton Drillers, and the Toronto Shooting Stars. The Shooting Stars were an expansion franchise and the Drillers had just moved from being the Chicago Power.

The ownership changed before the season, with President and co-owner John Bellanti leading an ownership group (Blizzard Inc.) who bought the franchise from the Knox Brothers and the Rich family. Bellanti was the owner and CEO of Battenfield Grease & Oil.

Jeff Eisenberg was named as the team’s new President, having moved from being the Vice President for Sales at the Buffalo Sabres.

Jim May was replaced as Head Coach by Gary Hindley, and May returned to his previous positions of General Manager and Vice-President. New owner Bellanti put the pressure on Hindley saying that the 1996-1997 season was not a rebuilding one, and that he wanted to “win, win now, and win big”. Hindley signed a two-year contract with an option for a 3rd.

The Blizzard changed their home arena for this season, moving to the HSBC Arena after the closure of the Buffalo Memorial Auditorium, where they would play until they folded in 2001. The Arena’s capacity was 18,690 and the Blizzard shared it with the Buffalo Sabres of the NHL, the Bandits of the National Lacrosse League, the Buffalo Destroyers of the Arena Football League, and the Buffalo Wings of the Roller Hockey League. The Arena was owned by the City of Buffalo and Erie County, New Jersey.

A key signing for the Blizzard was striker Doug Miller, who would alternate between the Blizzard indoors and the Rochester Rhinos outdoor. He would go on to play 165 games and score 208 goals.

The Blizzard started poorly, losing their first 4 games for the first time in the team’s history (although they were 4 away games. The played without much visible spirit, enthusiasm, or skill and even lost 20-5 against the expansion Toronto Shooting Stars franchise. The Rockers broke their all-time attendance record again, with 13,903 fans turning up to see them beat the Detroit Rockers 16-11 in their home opener. They won their next 3 games before going down to the St. Louis Ambush at home in front of 6,016 fans. The teams had brilliant home form, but were woeful away from the Marine Midland Arena.

During the season the Blizzard signed English veteran striker Steve Kinsey, initially on a series of 15 day contracts, before signing for the whole season. Argentinian striker and indoor veteran Carlos Salguero was brought in as Assistant Coach, and played in one game for the team. He was also to be the Director of the summer soccer camps for the Blizzard.

Gary Hindley was sacked in March and replaced until the end of the season by General Manager and Vice-President, Jim May. Hindley had a 16-16 record in his time as Head Coach, and had not fulfilled owner John Bellanti’s charge to win immediately and big. May’s first game in charge was a record breaking 37-5 win over the Columbus Invaders in front of 8,748 fans.

The Blizzard finished their 40 league season topping their division for the first time ever, this putting them straight into the National Conference semi-finals. They won 21 of their regular season games, conceding 19, scoring 545 games and conceding 469. For the first time in the playoffs they weren’t paired against the Kansas City Attack. They lost in straight games against the Attack 18-12 and 13-11.

The Blizzard’s leading goal scorer was Doug Miller with 53 goals and the most overall points, 114 (13th in the NPSL). Gino DiFlorio registered the most assists with 33. Canadian goalkeeper Pat Harrington led the lead in goalkeeping stats, conceding an average of only 9.76 goals per game.

Their average attendance for the season was 7,974. Their lowest attendance was the 4,346 fans who turned up to watch the playoff decider against the Kansas City Attack. This was the 3rd lowest attendance in the Buffalo Blizzard’s history.

After the season Argentine Carlos Salguero was appointed Head Coach on a permanent basis and retired from playing. Rudy Pikuzinski was named to a dual player/Assistant Coach role. They said that their first job was to find the team more goal scorers. In the front office, Kimberly Venti was named Director of Communications, and Claudio Ferrara Director of Administration.

The Blizzard signed a deal with radio station WNUC to broadcast all of their home games in the 1997-1998 season. Mike Schopp was named as the play-by-play announcer.

For the 1997-1998 season the line-up of the North Division changed, with the Montreal Impact replacing the Toronto Shooting Stars.

Newcomers on the roster included goalkeeper Bill Andracki, forward Jimmy Glenn, and indoor veteran Nassim Olabi.

For the new season the Empire Sports Network announced it would televise the Blizzard’s home debut opener against the Montreal Impact.

They signed defender Thor Lee on a seasons loan from the Anaheim Splash of the CISL.

Like the season before the Blizzard were unbeatable at home, but suffered the worst opening away run in the team’s history, winning 1 and losing 6 of their opening 7 away games. The Blizzard broke their all-time attendance record again when a mammoth 15,644 fans turned up to see the play the Philadelphia Kixx. The match was spoilt when they lost 13-11.

After the 40 game regular season the Blizzard topped the North Division for the 2nd season running, winning 21 games and losing 19. They scored 495 goals and conceded 504, and went straight into the National Conference semi-finals in the playoffs. Yet again they fell at the first hurdle, this time to the Wichita Wings, losing in straight games 19-16 and 15-14.

The Blizzards leading player was Rudy Pikuzinski who scored 53 goals, made 38 assists and scored a total of 139 points, placing him joint 7th in the NPSL that season.

Their average attendance for the season was 7,834.

Carlos Salguero was sacked after the season over a disagreement over whether he would appear at the Buffalo Blizzard’s summer camps. Jeff Eisenberg resigned as President to concentrate on other things. Jim May gave up his role of General Manager to Michael Ferguson, who was also named Vice-President. Ferguson had previously been GM of the minor league Jamestown Jammers baseball team. May became Vice-President of Soccer Operations.

The North Division for the 1998-1999 season consisted of the Blizzard, the Detroit Rockers, and the Edmonton Drillers.

At the start of September Carlos Salguero’s successor was named, ex-head coach of the Cincinnati Silverbacks, George Fernandez. In the press conference Fernandez said that he had joined because of the “job security”, regardless of the fact that the Blizzard had got through 4 head coaches in 5 seasons. He signed a 3-year deal with the Blizzard. Before the Silverbacks, Fernandez had coached the Anaheim Splash in the CISL.

The Blizzard also signed a substantial one-year shirt sponsorship deal with the food promotion company the RMI Group. Shirt sponsorship deals were quite uncommon in American sports.

Rudy Pikuzinski, who was rumoured to be retiring, signed a new 2-year deal. In some roster changes Canadian Marco Rizi did retire, and Evan Whitson opted to sit out the season for personal reasons. In came defender Ricky Rodriguez, who had played for Fernandez at the Splash. Forward Bernie Lilavois was signed from the defunct Silverbacks, and in came midfielder Danny Barber.

In their first home game of the season the Blizzard beat the St. Louis Ambush 21-14.
During the season defender Michael DiNunzio came out of retirement to sign a series of 15 day contracts. Forward Bernie Lilavois was traded to the Harrisburg Heat for Jim Hesch and Byron Mitchell.

The Blizzard finished the 1998-1999 season 2nd out of three teams in the North Division, winning 22 games and losing 18. They scored 573 goals and conceded 560. This put them into National Conference semi-finals in the playoffs, where they were paired against the St. Louis Ambush. They went out again at the first hurdle, winning the first game 16-13, but losing the next two games 12-10 and 12-11.
Doug Miller was the team’s leading player, scoring 92 goals (highest in the NPSL that season), making 23 assists and scoring 194 points, placing him 2nd in the NPSL for that season. Miller made the 6-man NPSL All-Star team.

Their average attendance for the season was 7,068.

For the 1999-2000 season the Blizzard moved into the American Conference, and were placed in the Central Division, lining up against the Cleveland Crunch and the Montreal Impact.

Doug Miller, after his showing the previous season, was rewarded with a new 4-year contract.

The Blizzard’s home opener was against the Montreal Impact in front of 10,412 fans. The season started abysmally for the Blizzard losing 6 out of 7 games at one point. Early defeats were caused by injuries with the Blizzard only having 11 fit players, but the results didn’t improve when the players came back. Team legend Rudy Pikuzinski was released and promptly retired. He said that Fernandez sacked him because his negative attitude was affecting the other players. The Blizzard acquired forward Brad Smith from the Baltimore Blast for future considerations.

At the end of February, George Fernandez was sacked, and replaced by Englishman Paul Kitson for the final 12 games of the regular season.

They finished bottom of the 3 game division, and failed to qualify for the playoffs for the first time in their history. In their 44 game season they won 19 games and lost 25, scoring 495 goals and conceding 617.

Their average attendance for the season was 6,587.

Although he failed to get them into the playoffs, John Bellanti was very happy with Paul Kitson during his 12 game spell and said he would be in charge for the next season. Kitson won 5 and lost 7 of his games in charge.

Mike Ferguson resigned his dual role as General Manager and President to concentrate on other interests. The Blizzard signed two new players, Dewan Bader and Travis Roy.
The last season of the franchise 2000-2001, was played in a re-formulated NPSL. The NPSL was split into two Conferences, with no Divisions. The Blizzard were in the 5 team American Conference, lining up against the Baltimore Blast, Cleveland Crunch, Harrisburg Heat, and the Philadelphia Kixx.

Ex-player Ernie Buriano was named as Assistant Coach, and Mike Ferguson took up a GM/Vice-President of Business Operations role with the Wichita Wings.
The first half of the season was terrible for the Blizzard, winning 7 and losing 13 of their 20 games. However, in the second half of the season they turned it around with a 15-5 record to reach the playoffs.

The Blizzard won 22 and lost 18 in their 40 game regular season, placing them 2nd in the Conference and sent them into the playoffs. They scored 513 goals and conceded 464. Matching their previous years playoff record they went out in the Conference semi-finals to the Baltimore Blast 9-8 and 18-13.

The Blizzard’s leading player was Doug Miller – he scored 47 goals, made 27 assists, and scored 118 points.

Their average attendance for the season was an all-time low for the franchise, 4,635.
After this season the NPSL collapsed, with the league claiming it was no longer financially viable. Six of the strongest franchises formed the new MISL, but the Blizzard folded when owner John Bellanti declined to apply to join the new league.
Randy Pikuzinski who had played in every season for the Blizzard was signed in the dispersal draft by the Harrisburg Heat, but opted to retire instead.

In total the Blizzard played 364 regular season games, winning 188 and losing 176, scoring 4,688 goals, and conceding 4,720. In the playoffs they played 21 games, winning 5 and losing 16. They scored 275 goals and conceded 349. They never made it past of their first playoff series in any season. The Blizzard were known as the “.500” club referring to their middling record in every season, roughly equalling games won and lost.

The Blizzard’s all time leading appearance maker was Randy Pikuzinski with 352 games. Leading goal scorer was his brother Rudy, who scored 317 times over 8 seasons.

Their total regular season attendance over 9 seasons was 63,238, making for an all-time average of 7,028 fans per game. The highest individual season average was 8,435 in 1994-1994, and the lowest was 4,635 in their final season, 2000-2001. Their record attendance for a single game was the 15,644 who saw them play the Philadelphia Kixx in the 1997-98 season.

Buffalo Storm

The Buffalo Storm were a professional soccer team who competed for only one season in the United Soccer League (USL).

For the 1984 Buffalo Storm campaign they were placed in the Northern Division along with the New York Nationals and the Rochester Flash. Francisco Escos was named Head Coach.

The 1984 roster included:
Goalkeepers – Peter Grillo, Otto Orf, Wieslaw Surlit
Defenders – Mike Corney, Dennis Mepham, Oscar Pisano, Chuck Schumpf
Midfielders – Ernie Buriano, Mike Garrett, Neils Gulbjerg, Pat Occhiuto, Mark Sansona, Karl Tausch
Forwards – Herve Guilliod, Randy Pikuzinski, Rudy Pikuzinski, Carlos Salguero
Most of the players played indoors with the MISL (Major indoor Soccer League) Buffalo Stallions.

After the regular season they topped the standings, with 11 wins and 13 loses from 24 games. They scored 48 goals and conceded 41. Topping the league put them straight into the USL semi-finals where they met the Fort Lauderdale Sun. They lost their first two matches 3-0 and 5-1, thus eliminating them.

Carlos Salguero was their highest goal scorer with 11 goals.

After this season they folded.

Boston Minutemen

The Boston Minutemen were a professional soccer team who competed in the North American Soccer League (NASL) for 3 seasons between 1974 and 1976.

The Minutemen were owned by businessman John Sterge, who also named himself President. Stereg was a Boston based oil-stock dealer. Casey Frankiewicz was named as Assistant General Manager.

The Minutemen began play at the 30,000 capacity Alumni Stadium in 1974. This stadium was on the campus of Boston University in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts.
German Hubert Vogelsinger was named as Head Coach. He had previously been Head Coach at Yale University.

For their debut season they paid a $75,000 franchise fee to join the league, and were placed in the Northern Division of the NASL, lining up against the New York Cosmos, Rochester Lancers, and Toronto Metros.

There were few big names on the 1974 Minutemen roster. The biggest was West Ham striker Ade Coker on loan, and although they did sign English striker Tony Hateley he only featured on a 3 game trial basis and was not kept on. The Minutemen also signed English winger Graham French. French had been a highly rated player during 5 seasons with Luton Town, but in 1970 was implicated in a shooting at a London pub. He served a 3-year sentence, and when released was unable to re-capture his form with Luton, so moved to the U.S.

After the 20 game regular season the Minutemen topped their division and qualified for the playoffs. They won 10 games, tied 1 and lost 9, scoring 36 goals and conceding 23. In the playoffs they defeated the Baltimore Comets in the quarter finals 1-0, before losing 2-0 to the Los Angeles Aztecs in the semis.

The teams leading goal scorer was Nigerian forward Ade Coker with 7. English midfielder John Coyne registered most assists with 7, and finished as the sides leading points scorer with 21. Graham French played only 3 games before returning to the UK and drifting out of the game.
The team’s average attendance was a very healthy 9,642, 5th highest in the NASL that year.

For the 1975 season the Northern Division featured one extra team, the expansion Hartford Bicentennials.

For the 1975 season the team moved stadium to Nickerson Field, which was still on the campus of Boston University. The stadium had a capacity of 10,412, substantially less than the Alumni.

German midfielder Wolfgang Suhnholz was signed to the playing roster, and also served as Vogelsinger’s Assistant Coach for the 1975 season.
Signing for the Minutemen was the Portuguese legend Antonio Simoes who had played over 600 games for Benfica, and 46 games for Portugal. Also signed were Danish defender Henning Boel and English forward Geoff Davies. Nigerian striker Ade Coker was signed permanently from West Ham United, and goalkeeper Shep Messing was signed from the New York Cosmos after he had appeared in a nude photo shoot for ‘Viva!’ magazine.

Portuguese superstar Eusebio was signed midway through the season. The ‘Black Pearl’ had been playing in the second-tier American Soccer league (ASL) with the Rhode Island Oceaneers.

During the season Portuguese superstar Eusebio was signed. The ‘Black Pearl’ had been playing in the second-tier American Soccer league (ASL) with the Rhode Island Oceaneers. His signing was criticised by Tampa Bay Rowdies Head Coach Eddie Firmani, because he thought they had blown all their budget on one star signing. He also thought that the signing of too many foreign stars would destabilize the league.
For Eusebio’s debut, the Minutemen were playing host to the New York Cosmos, who had Pele in their ranks. The game was won 2-1 by the Minutemen but ended up being replayed after a protest by the Cosmos after a pitch invasion took place during the game after Pele had scored (though it was later disallowed). According to Minutemen goalkeeper around 1,000 fans took to the field to mob Pele, tearing off his shirt and boot. Pele was substituted as he had sustained a bruise behind the right knee and a sprained ankle in the melee. He was carried from the field by his bodyguards and hidden in a university athletics building until the game had finished. The Minutemen claimed they had sold 14,500 tickets for the game, enough for a capacity crowd, but their were allegedly thousands more in the stadium (18,000 by one estimate).The Cosmos claimed that the Minutemen had failed to provide sufficient security for the players and won their appeal, and the replay 5-0.

After a 22 game regular season the Minutemen finished top of their division for the 2nd year running, qualifying for the playoffs. Their record was 13 wins and 9 losses, scoring 41 goals and conceding 29. In the playoffs they went out in the quarterfinals to the Miami Toros 2-1 in overtime.

The Minutemen’s leading goal scorer was again Nigerian striker Ade Coker with 10, and he also finished as leading points scorer with 26. Portuguese midfielder Antonio Simoes led the team with 9 assists, and made the NASL All-Star team. Eusebio scored 2 goals in 7 appearances.

Their average attendance dropped to 4,422, barely half of their previous season’s total. This was all the more surprising giving it was another successful season and the roster was now stocked with some major European stars.

For the 1976 season the Minutemen were again in a slightly re-jigged Northern Division (this time part of the Atlantic Conference). The league’s line up was nearly the same, only with the Chicago sting replacing the New York Cosmos who were moved to another division. The Minutemen were widely tipped to win their division.

The Minutemen were due to relocate to the 57,166 capacity Harvard Stadium, however the deal fell through 3 days before the season started as the Minutemen could not provide the required deposit. The Minutemen had to postpone their first 2 home games of the season. This was the first indication that the franchise was in financial trouble. The Minutemen signed a deal to play the majority of their home games at the Veterans Memorial Stadium in Quincy, but they would have to wait until the field was re-turfed . Whilst they were waiting for this, their first game would take place at Sargent Field in New Bedford against the Philadelphia Fury. The second fixture against the Cosmos would be played at the 61,279 capacity Schaefer Stadium in Foxboro. The Cosmos game attracted only 7,367 fans for what would be Giorgio Chinaglia’s first game for the Cosmos. The Minutemen then returned for one more game at Sargent Field against the Washington Diplomats. The Veterans Memorial Stadium was not totally suitable either as it had no floodlights, meaning that games kicked off at 5 P.M. Despite this, and Quincy being a 20 minute drive out of Boston, admission prices were hiked from $3 to $5.

During the season owner John Sterge announced that he was going broke and threatened to fold the team mid-season unless he was able to sell the club. The financial losses were blamed on poor attendances. This led to a fire-sale by the club, Shep Messing went back to the Cosmos, Simoes went to the San Jose Earthquakes, Suhnholz to the Vancouver Whitecaps, Coker to the Minnesota Kicks, Geoff Davies to the Chicago Sting, and English defender Derek Jefferson to the Washington Diplomats. American player Gene Geimer left to join the Chicago Sting after 10 games.

Michael Bosson was named as new General Manager of the team but quit a week later.
After he had sure that all the players were looked after, Vogelsinger quit himself on July 8th leaving the Minutemen with a 7-8 record, saying soccer in Boston was good, but a “lousy operation, and a lousy franchise were to blame”. John Bertos was named as Head Coach and General Manager for the rest of the season.

The team hired semi-professional players to complete the season. Attendances plummeted, including 3-digit crowds of 531, 986, and 583. They lost their final 12 games of the season.

After their 24 game regular season, the Minutemen placed dead last of the Northern Division, winning 7 and losing 17 games. They scored 35 goals and conceded a NASL low of 64 for the season. The team’s leading scorer in goals, assists and points was St. Kitts forward was Bert Bowery with 11 goals, 8 assists, and 30 points. The average attendance for the 1976 season was 2,581, which was the lowest in the NASL that season.

After the troubled 1976 season the team folded. John Sterge ended up being investigated by the Securities & Exchange Commission for diverting investor’s money on the stock exchange into the Minutemen. He consented to the entry or a permanent injunction against himself.

Just after the season finished Ice Hockey stars Phil Esposito and Bobby Orr expressed an interest in buying the Minutemen, however nothing came of this.

In total they played 66 regular season games, winning 27, losing 35, and drawing 1. They scored 112 goals and conceded 116. Their playoff record was 3 games played, winning one and losing two, scoring 2 and conceding 4.

The Minutemen’s leading appearance maker was English defender Alan Wooler with 66. Their leading goal scorer was Nigerian striker Ade Coker with 22. Coker shared the record of most assists (11) with Portuguese midfielder Antonio Simoes.

The team’s all time attendance was 16,645, for an average of 5,548 per season. Their largest crowd was the 18,126 who attended to watch them play the New York Cosmos (and Pele) in 1975.

In 1977 the Boston area NASL franchise spot was bought by the Lipton Tea Company for $370001. In 1979 John Sterge was indicted by a grand jury for alleged securities and mail fraud in the sale of interests in Ohio and Tennessee oil and gas wells. In 1980 he was sentenced to two 30 months prison terms (to run concurrently) for these violations. He was also given a one-year suspended sentence for obtaining money under false pretences, which he had pleaded guilty to.

Boston Bolts

The Boston Bolts were a professional outdoor soccer team who competed for 3 seasons in the APSL between 1988 and 1990.

The team played their home games at Nickerson Field, a 10,412 capacity stadium owned by Boston University.

The team’s management for all 3 years included Alan Suvalle as General Manager and Cesidio “Sid” Mazzola as Head Coach and President. George Finn was the trainer. Each team had a $50,000 salary cap for the season. Teams were allowed an 18 man active roster.

The Bolts inaugural 1988 season in the American Soccer League (ASL) saw them placed in the Northern Division alongside the Albany Capitals, Maryland Bays, New Jersey Eagles, and the Washington Stars.

The 1988 roster was made up of largely ex-college students and part-time.
The franchise’s first game was a 3-1 away loss against the Maryland Bays on April 17th. Their home opener attracted more than 4,000 fans, giving them hope for the franchise. The team’s starting goalkeeper Jeff Duback hardly featured during the season as he had national team commitments. The Bolts were strong defensively but were weak in offence. Forward Andy Bing lived for a while in GM Alan Suvalle’s basement before moving into a flat in Malden mid-season with 3 Bolts teammates. Bing earned $110 per game, and offset this by working at Living to Learn, an educational company. The team trained on average 3 times a week.

After the 20 game regular season the Bolts placed 4th in their 5 team division missing the playoffs. They played 20 games, winning 9 and losing 11 for 27 points. They scored 31 goals and conceded 33. Three players tied as leading goal scorer with 5, Andy Bing, Mike Sweeney, and Kurt Manal. Bing registered the most assists with 4 and was the Bolts highest individual points scorer with 14. This placed him joint 6th in the ASL. The Bolts only placed one player on the ASL All-Star team, defender Ross Irwin.
The team’s average attendance was 2,612.

For the 1989 season the ASL Northern Division had an unchanged line-up. The rosters salary cap was upped to $75,000 per team.

Jeff Duback left having only played 7 games the previous season.

The Bolts made the playoffs finishing 2nd in the division behind the Washington Stars, although tied d on points. Their regular season record was 13 wins (5 wins on penalties) and 7 losses (3 losses on penalties) from 20 games for a total of 37 Points. The Bolts scored 27 goals and conceded 19. In the Playoff semi-finals the Bolts caused an upset by defeating the Tampa Bay Rowdies 2-0 and 2-1 to qualify for the ASL Grand Final against the Fort Lauderdale Strikers. They lost the first game 1-0 but won the second at home 2-0 in front of 5,370 fans. As away goals didn’t count and it went to a mini-game where they lost 1-0.

3 players were tied as leading scorer with 4 goals, Dan Donigan, Paul Duffy, and Patrick Hughes. Donigan registered the most assists with 7 for a team high 15 points, leaving him joint 8th in the ASL. Despite a successful season they again only placed one player on the ASL All-Star team, Nigerian defender Dehinde Akinlotan.
In 1990 the ASL merged with the Western Soccer League (WSL) to form the American Professional Soccer League), the first national league since the North American Soccer League (NASL) folded in 1984.

The Bolts played in the Eastern ASL Conference, in the North Division with the same teams as in the last ASL season, with the addition of the Penn-Jersey Spirit. The teams played the other teams in their division and then met the top teams from the Western Division in the playoffs.

General Manager Alan Suvalle and Head Coach Sid Mazzola purchased the team before the 1990 season. They had to post a new $10,000 dollar expansion fee to the league as all new owners had to, and meet with league President Chuck Blazer. The teams offices were moved to Wellesley, and Mazzola’s wife Diane was appointed Ticket Manager. The Bolts had a TV deal with Sports Channel-New England.

Big signings for the Bolts were USA international defenders Brian Bliss and Janusz Michallik. Bliss however missed a lot of the season as he was playing for the U.S. in the World Cup finals in Italy. Ex-goal keeper Jeff Duback returned from the San Diego Nomads, as he was now out of contention for the USA national team.

In a friendly game during the season the Bolts lost 2-0 to the touring Dynamo Moscow. The match however could only attract 786 games.

After the 20 game season the Bolts finished 3rd in their 6 game division failing to qualify for the post-season. They won 9 games and lost 11 for 28 points. They scored and conceded 27 goals.

Their top player was Mike Sweeney who scored 8 goals and registered 3 assists for 19 points (10th in the APSL).

After the 1990 season the Boston Bolts folded. In total they played 60 regular season games, winning 31 and losing 29. They totalled 92 points scoring 85 goals and conceding 79.