MatchDay Memory–History of ATL Soccer (Part I)

Recently my family moved to Atlanta to start the next chapter in our lives.  As part of settling in I started researching the history of soccer in Atlanta, expecting to focus on the Silverbacks and the new MLS team which starts play in 2017.  To my surprise I learned that soccer has been in city since the 1960’s and is full of interesting stories and characters.  So here we go . . .

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atlanta-chiefs-logo-1968

In 1966 the Atlanta Braves of Major League Baseball received a franchise in one of the many incarnations of the National Professional Soccer League (NPSL).  First tangent, the baseball team had started as the Boston Red Stockings in 1871 and eventually became the Boston Braves in 1912.  The team then moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1953 before finally ending up in Atlanta in 1966.

Chiefs 68 Warmup Phil WoosnamOne of the Atlanta Chiefs first signings was Phil Woosnam as coach. The Welshman had played in England for Leyton Orient, West Ham and Aston Villa.  After one season in the NPSL, the team became part of the newly formed North American Soccer League (NASL).  Woosnam led the Chiefs to the first NASL Championship in 1968, defeating the San Diego Toros 3-0 in a two legged final, before becoming US National Team coach and then commissioner of the NASL.

kaizer chiefs

Another early figure was Kaizer Motaung, who was in the squad for the first four seasons, winning Rookie of the Year in 1968 and making the All Star Team in 1969 and 1971.  In 1970 he returned to his native South Africa and formed the Kaizer Chiefs, a combination of his name and the Atlanta Chiefs.  Over the next 40 plus years, this version of the Chiefs became the most successful team in South Africa and won the African Cup Winners Cup in 1991.

Chiefs 71 Team Road

Back on the field in Atlanta, the team made the 1971 NASL Final but lost the three game series to the Dallas Tornado.  The team would compete as the Chiefs in 1972 before becoming the Atlanta Apollos for the 1973 campaign.  The team then folded until being revived in 1979 as the Chiefs after the Colorado Caribous franchise moved to Atlanta.  Scanning the roster I noticed that former Manchester United player Brian Kidd suited up for the Chiefs for the 1981 season, which turned out to be last outdoor campaign for an Atlanta team in the original North American Soccer League.

In 1982 the Cleveland Cobras franchise in the American Soccer League (ASL) moved to Atlanta and became the Georgia Generals.  The team only lasted one season, finishing third in the regular season and losing in the semi-finals of the playoffs.  My research revealed that leading scorer Jose Neto played in the 1961 European Cup Final for the winning side Benfica.

AtlantaAttack9091

After this soccer returned to Hotlanta in 1989 as the Atlanta Attack played in the American Indoor Soccer Association (AISA) which became the National Professional Soccer League (NPSL) (The re-use of names and acronyms can be confusing.) in the Attack’s second and final season. Anyway, the club relocated to Kansas City, became the Kansas City Attack and had some moderate success before folding in 2005.

The next part will look at different indoor and outdoor teams that bridged the gap until the emergence of the Atlanta Silverbacks.

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These posts are based on internet research so may be incorrect or incomplete. Please reach out to me at austinlong1974@gmail.com with any comments or corrections.

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    • Peter
    • March 9th, 2015

    Nice post Austin. We miss you up here in Michigan.
    Glad to see Kaizer Motaung got a prominent mention in your story. Speaking of whom, according to John Turnbull of The Global Game, the Atlanta Chiefs’ African players were made to live in segregated living quarters in the late 1960s. A detail worth mentioning and, perhaps, exploring further?

  1. Thanks for the kind words. John and I have traded a couple of emails and I may explore further issues in the days ahead. After talking to several lifelong fans in the area there is plenty of room for exploration in terms of players and the possible success of teams for both men and women.

    • Christopher Masak
    • March 10th, 2015

    I remember going to see Drago and Yaro Dachniwsky play in ATL Attack games as a kid. Then, years later when the Magic/Lasers played, Yaro was on most of those teams. I think he even made the later Ruckus squads for a brief period. He was my favorite player for many years.

    My dad was a longtime Chiefs supporter/booster and still has most of his memorabilia (banners, Wooden clacker, stickers, autographed ball, etc). I grew up hearing about the Chiefs (and to a lesser extent the Rowdies)….even think I was taken to a game as an infant. Chiefs are a big part of my heritage.

    Can’t wait for part 2, where I assume the Ruckus and Beat will feature prominently. Man, I remember “starting” the unofficial Ruckus cheering section back in high school. We’d go to Adams stadium and while folks watched the games, few did the active chanting/cheering/drumming you see nowadays. My buds and I starting the “We Are the Ruckus” chants, brought cowbells and drums and clackers and got things going the right way. We were on our way to forming an official supporters club but I left for college. I think Kurt actually managed to form the official thing a few years later and, when I finally returned for a Silverbacks game it was a whole new world of fandom.

    • Christopher, thanks for reading. I’m already hearing about the Ruckus days and that seems to be an area for further development. Part 2 deals with the bridge between Chiefs to the Silverbacks. Part 3 will be mostly about the Silverbacks with Part 4 looking at MLS Atlanta. Keep reading and commenting.

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