Former Lancers Nelson Cupello (right), along with (from left to right) Dave Sarachan, Craig Reynolds and Kevin Gannon at the 1992 NSCAA convention. (Photo by Michael Lewis)
ROCHESTER, N.Y. — The Rochester Lancers’ 50th reunion this Saturday, October 7 has a double meaning for Lancers Wall of Famer Nelson Cupello.
Cupello was in the Aquinas Stadium stands as a fan when the Lancers played their very first game against Concordia of Germany on May 30, 1967. Ten years later, Cupello played a vital role on defense, helping the Lancers reach the semifinals of the North American Soccer League playoffs.
So, Cupello will be at the Italian American Sport Club for the reunion Saturday at 6 p.m., hoping to reunite with former teammates and soccer fans.
“This is a special one because I was at the very first game at Aquinas when they played the German team,” Cupello said. “It brings back those memories. The Lancers lost 4-2. I was there right from the beginning, not as a player, but as a fan. I was fortunate enough to be a part of the club later on. So, the 50th year means a lot to me, as well as I’m sure for the guys who have been there from the beginning.”
Cupello has three distinct memories from 1977, coming off the bench three times to replace the injured center back Miralem Fazlic.
The first time came with the Lancers trying to avoid setting a North American Soccer League for most consecutive road losses, helping to tame the San Jose Earthquakes in a 3-1 victory as Craig Reynolds came off the bench to score two late goals.
“I didn’t want to be part of that losing streak record,” Cupello said. “I did the best I possibly could.”
He came off the bench in the shootout playoff win at the St. Louis Stars in the opening round.
“I think [coach Don] Popovic thought I was one of those players he could count on,” Cupello said.
Cupello entered the second leg of the playoff semifinals against the Cosmos with the Lancers’ facing a 2-0 deficit in what turned into a 4-1 defeat. Yet, it was a special experience.
“It was a memorable moment playing moment at Giants Stadium in front of 77,000 with sheets of water coming down,” he said.
Cupello, who coaches the Monroe Community College men’s soccer team, will be among many Lancer legends at a special dinner at the IASC, located at 1250 Buffalo Road in Rochester Saturday.
Many players and personalities have worn the blue and gold through the years. They include Carlos Metidieri, Manfred Seissler, the Three Musketeers — Francisco Escos, Frank Odoi and Eli Durante — Charlie Mitchell, Roberto Lonardo, Dick Howard, Don Lalka, Pat Ercoli, Jack Brand, Jim Pollihan, Don Droege, Craig Reynolds, Jim May, George Gibbs, Francisco Bolota, Edner Breton, Dave Thomson, Jorge Piotti, Fred Grgurev, George Lamptey, Bob DiLuca, Frank Caricchio, Tito Laurini, Mauro Felipe, Kenny Allison, Guy Bonfiglio, Ernie Alo, Frank Tata, Luis Fernando, among others.
The original Lancers played in the American Soccer League through the 1969 season. The team moved to the North American Soccer League in 1970, saving the league from extinction, and won the NASL title in their first season in the league. The Lancers became the first U.S. pro soccer team to compete in the CONCACAF Club Championship, finishing fourth in 1972. Rochester, then coached by Popovic, also reached the 1977 NASL playoff semifinals against the New York Cosmos and Pele filling up Holleder Stadium with a soccer record crowd of 20,005.
Many memories will be stirred and stories will be told. The public is invited to partake and meet their heroes of the past.
Tickets are $30 apiece or $200 for a table of 8 and can be purchased at:
- Top Notch Monogramming, Northfield Common (50 State Street) in Pittsford
- Donuts Delite, 1700 Culver Road at Empire Boulevard in Rochester
- Salvatore’s Pizzeria and Restaurant at The Garage Door, 149 East Ridge Road in Rochester
- Salvatore’s Pizzeria and Pub, 1217 Bay Road in Webster
- Salvatore’s Pizzeria, 2496 West Ridge Road in Greece near Greece Ridge Mall
- Salvatore’s Pizzeria, 4165 Buffalo Road in Ogden near Roberts Wesleyan College
For more information, contact Joe Sirianni at 585-414-5122 or Andrew Battisti at 585-451-6701 or visit the Facebook page for the Lancers Reunion atwww.facebook.com/lancers50