Posts Tagged ‘ NASL ’

MatchDay Memory–History of ATL Soccer (Part III)

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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nasl logo

In 2011, the Atlanta Silverbacks were part of the new North America Soccer League, which became the second division of the US Soccer Pyramid.  In reading about the formation of the league, I learned that a group of USL teams wanted to break away to create their own league, which eventually received USSF sanction and started play in 2011.  The original 8 teams were:

  • Tampa Bay Rowdies
  • Fort Lauderdale Strikers
  • Atlanta Silverbacks
  • Carolina Railhawks
  • FC Edmonton
  • Minnesota United FC
  • Montreal Impact
  • Puerto Rico Islanders

silverbacks

After two unsuccessful seasons, the Silverbacks won the Spring Championship in 2013.  Because of this, Atlanta hosted the New York Cosmos but lost in the 2013 Soccer Bowl.  The NASL now runs with a Spring Season and a Fall Season, and teams make the playoffs as follows:

As of 2014, the NASL Spring Season and Fall Season champions qualify for the playoffs (excuse me The Championship) and host a semi final match.  If the same club wins both seasons, the clubs with the second, third and fourth best overall records from both seasons combined will qualify for the playoffs.  Their opponents are the clubs with the next best overall records from both seasons combined. The semi final winners then compete in The Championship final (aka the Soccer Bowl).

The current roster of the NASL includes these eleven teams:

  • Tampa Bay Rowdies
  • Fort Lauderdale Strikers
  • Atlanta Silverbacks
  • Carolina Railhawks
  • FC Edmonton
  • Minnesota United FC
  • San Antonio Scorpions
  • New York Cosmos
  • Indy Eleven
  • Ottawa Fury FC
  • Jacksonville Armada

Once I knew I was moving to Atlanta, I started researching the Silverbacks and this is how this post came to be.  In order to familiarize myself with the team, I ponied up $5 for a NASL video subscription and sat down to watch the Silverbacks’ clash with the New York Cosmos.  The match featured a great free kick by Burgos, but then after 22 minutes, the game was delayed about three and a half hours due to rain.  I didn’t wait around but saw the highlights next day. I watched a little bit of game against Fort Lauderdale and watched most of game away to San Antonio.  The match against the Scorpions was 0-0 at the half but two goals gave Scorpions win.  Sandoval scored a fantastic goal late to insert some drama into game.

sunset at silverbacks park

My next step was to attend a game, so the family went to down to Silverbacks Park to see the hosts play one of the top teams of the 2014 season—San Antonio Scorpions.  The club plays its home games at Atlanta Silverbacks Park, which houses a 5000-seat stadium. Based on attendance figures from Wikipedia and the Doherty Soccer blog, the club has been averaging over 4000 fans for the last three seasons.

In advance of the game, I reached out to Terminus Legion about hanging out with them at their tailgate.  They welcomed us with open arms and we were able to share a beer and a hot dog on a glorious fall evening.  May I say that the Brown Ale from Red Brick was quite tasty.

After cleaning up we marched to the stadium and took up our seats in section 301.  The weather was perfect and the group was ready to go.  Our capo was losing his voice during the match but we powered through. The Home Depot tool caddy, which served as our drum, was not so fortunate, and didn’t even make it to halftime. The Silverbacks played well and were unlucky to be on the wrong end of the 1-0 scoreline.  The hosts nearly scored in front of us on the Scorpion goalie, alternately called Barney and Grimace due to his purple shirt.

TL halloween

All in all a wonderful evening.  Picked up another scarf and made plans to make it back to Silverbacks Park before the end of the season.  I was able to attend the final regular season home against the Carolina Railhawks.  Again I tailgated with Terminus Legion, who had invited the die hard Railhawk fans who had made the trip over.  Another defeat but a great atmosphere was created by Terminus Legion, who got a girls youth team that was sitting next to us involved in some cheers.  The game ended with the Legion leading chants based around the theme keeping the Silverbacks, with the team’s future uncertain at that point.

During the 2014 season the team finished 8th with 3 wins 1 draw and 5 losses in the Spring.  The Fall campaign was not much better, with the Silverbacks at the bottom of the final combined table.

SOS banner

After the season Atlanta supporters groups came together in an effort for #SOS Save Our Silverbacks.  Several meetings were held both on and off line and it was great to see the creative juices following and arguments developed and assessed.  Efforts were made to increase awareness and be part of the solution, and a rally was held in early November to show the NASL, the media and the Atlanta Soccer community that there was a desire for a team, and the cause was picked up  on social media by supporter groups, who showed their support. The result of those efforts was that the league will run the team in 2015 while a search is made for a new ownership group.

SOS march

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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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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.

MatchDay Memory–1974: Part 7 (United States)

Forty years ago I came into the world and while I may not have made an impact on the game of soccer, it has surely made an impact on me.  Playing the game from a very early age, I didn’t start following the game until my early 20’s.  Starting with Manchester United, I eventually started reading everything I could get my hands on and watching whatever game was on, learning about the rich and complex history of the game.  My MatchDay Memory posts over the next few weeks will focus on events in world soccer during the year of my birth, 1974.  It is in no way a comprehensive summation but rather an examination of teams and incidents that I was drawn to in my research.

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Wrapping up with domestic matters, after reading David Wangerin’s Soccer in a Football World, 1974 seemed to critical moment in the history of US Soccer. From an organizational point of view, the United States Soccer Football Association changed their name to the United States Soccer Federation and the USSF appointed their first full time coach—German Dettmar Cramer.  Unfortunately he only lasted six months, leaving the US for Bayern Munich, but a step in the right direction.

The National Team failed to qualify for the 1974 World Cup and played very few games that year, which is in marked contrast to the number of games the USMNT plays these days.  Strangely enough Haiti qualified for the World Cup from the CONCACAF region, a thought that seems almost impossible today.  Haiti lost all three games but their goal against Italy ended Dino Zoff’s run of 1142 minutes without conceding a goal.

As for the American soccer scene, the American Soccer League (ASL) was still hanging around and the North American Soccer League (NASL) expanded westward, adding teams in Vancouver, Seattle, LA and San Jose, with these teams laying the groundwork for future MLS teams.  Reviewing the rules and point system of the league revealed some interesting tweaks of the traditional model. From Wikipedia:

If a match was tied after 90 minutes, it was to be decided by a standard penalty kick shootout and would appear in the standings as a ‘tie-win’. The tie-winner would gain three points, plus goals in regulation, while the loser of the tie-breaker received no points, except for regulation goals.  As for the point system, teams earned 6 points for a win, 3 points for a tie, 0 points for a loss, 1 point for each goal scored up to three per game.  As a result, the LA Aztecs had the best record with 110 points.

74miator-aztecs-8-25-232x300

LA defeated Miami in the NASL Final on penalties after a 3-3 draw in regulation.  As Wangerin noted in his book only 15,500 people showed up, the TV audience was poor and “not a single American-born player appeared in the match.”  The NASL, formed in the years after ABC televised the 1966 World Cup Final and American professional sports began their expansion, was barely surviving.  Things would change the following year with the arrival of Pele.

At the collegiate level, Saint Louis University was the dominant team of the late 60’s and early 70’s, appearing in seven of eight National Championship Finals, winning five of them.  But in 1974 the Billikens fell to Howard in the Final and their era of dominance came to an end.

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I chose 1974 simply because it was the year I was born, yet in reviewing the events of those 12 months it was interesting to see how many precursors and foundations and glimpses into the future were present.  The eternal battle between disciplined defenses against attack minded opponents; players and clubs searching for the next dollar/euro/monetary unit; shock results;  the constant emergence of new and dynamic talent from all around the world.  In 1974 I imagine that there were unknown pockets of activity around the world, complete with rich storylines and regional influence, and stories these days are now part of the worldwide narrative thanks to the internet and globalization.  Teams, players, coaches and cultures are more familiar and are part of a global fabric, with the game belonging to the world and being shared with the world.  Part of the sharing is this project, which was hard work, but informative and enlightening, and I hope you have enjoyed this look back into footballing history.

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Bibliography

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