Above is part of an ad in the Rochester Times-Union about the Rochester Lancers’ very first game May 30, 1967.
The following is an excerpt is taken from Michael Lewis’ upcoming book: Alive and Kicking: The Incredible Story of the Rochester Lancers. The Lancers played Concordia of Germany in an exhibition game.
By Michael Lewis
For the fledgling Lancers debut, Rochester fans were treated to a doubleheader at Aquinas Stadium on Memorial Day, Tuesday, May 30. In the first game at 1 p.m., the Rochester Baysiders junior team played the Rochester Institute of Technology to a 3-3 draw.
Then, for the first time, a soccer team named the Rochester Lancers officially lined up for a game.
For the record, the Lancers lineup was: Orest Banach (Chicago) in goal, Frank Carrichio (Italian American Sport Club) at right fullback, Allen Harvey (Toronto) at left fullback, Zenon Snylyk (Newark, N.J.) at right halfback, Bohdan (Don) Lalka (Rochester) at center halfback, Dennis Jones (IASC) at left halfback, Nelson Bergamo (Rochester) at outside right, John Kerr (Hamilton, Canada) at inside right, Jorgen Petersen (Toronto) at center forward, Andrew Yrfelt (Toronto) at inside left and Wilfried Kohler (IASC) at outside left.
Four substitutes were used: Kurt Harold (Ukrainian-American Sport Club), Frank Tata (IASC), Luis Fernando (IASC) and Omero Paris (IASC).
Several Lancers wound up having double duty on back-to-back days as the ISAC met the Ukrainian-American Sports Club in a Northwestern Soccer Cup semifinal at Cobbs Hill Park the previous Sunday. The Italians overcame a two-goal deficit as Bergamo tallied twice and Tata and Harold added single goals en route to a 4-2 triumph.
Concordia’s lineup (from Germany) included Harold Voight in the net, Volker Waldmueller at right fullback, Gert Meister at left fullback, Horst Engel at right halfback, Peter Ebert at center halfback, Manfred Junke at left halfback, Edgar Puchmueller at outside right, Heiner Castroff at at center forward, Dirk Stuelcken at inside left and Werner Bayerl at outside left.
Two subs were utilized: Claus Martens and Helmut Schipper.
During the pre-game ceremonies, Mayor Frank Lamb, who admitted he once played soccer, took the honorary kickoff at midfield, utilizing a “trick shot” at the center spot. The Star Spangled Banner and Deutschland, Deuschland Uber Alles were played and then the game kicked off.
“That first game was a lot of fun,” said Lalka, a Rochesterian with a Ukrainian background. “But it was hard to communicate with a fellow you’ve never seen before.”
John Kerr, who was identified as Peter Keer in both newspapers because his name was misspelled in the game program, agreed. Kerr, a 23-year-old Scotsman, who was installing telephones in Toronto while playing in several Canadian soccer leagues. He went on to play in the North American Soccer League and eventually became the head of the NASL and Major Indoor Soccer League Players Union (he passed away in June 2011).
“I remember the game quite clearly,” Kerr said years later. “I can’t remember the exact amount we got, but it was something like $150 plus expenses. The field was excellent, in beautiful condition.
(Due to inflation, that $150 in 1967 is worth around $1,124).
“It was a situation where you met players you were playing the day of the game and afterwards you didn’t see them again. At the time, I didn’t realize that was the first game played in Rochester.”
Concordia, a club that was founded in 1907, reportedly had a well-organized youth system and finished in sixth place, its best performance in the North German Regional Football League. During its U.S. tour, Concordia had recorded a 3-0-1 mark entering the Rochester contest, tying the Greek-Americans (New York City), 1-1, upending Detroit Carpathia, 4-2, rolling over the Chicago Midwest All-Stars, 4-1, and besting the St. Paul All-Stars, 5-1.
The featured affair kicked off at 3 p.m. as the Lancers begin their journey into virgin soccer waters. All of the scoring occurred in the second half, although the Lancers threw just about everything at the German side in the opening 10 minutes, taking nine shots. Fernando reportedly had the first opportunity, firing it straight to Voight. On the other end of the field, Banach produced “some outstanding acrobatic saves,” according to Alex Loj’s report in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, to hold the visitors at bay.
The first goal at Aquinas came in the 52nd minute, Kerr, easily the best Rochester player, dribbled around three defenders and launched an 18-yard shot over Voight’s hands. The 5-5, 145-lb. Kerr appeared to have been fouled in the penalty area only two minutes later, but referee James Dickie did not whistle for a penalty.
During a five-minute span, things went quickly downhill for the hosts. First, Castroff sent a bullet into the left-hand corner for the 64th-minute equalizer. Four minutes later Junke gave lifted Concordia into a 2-1 lead. Puchmueller pulled Banach out of the net and Junke slotted the ball into the left corner. The West Germans gave themselves some breathing room in the 69th minute as Bayerl found Vogler with a perfect pass for a 3-1 advantage.
“They were a split second faster,” Carrichio was quoted by the Times-Union. “That’s how they got those quick goals.”
Kerr, called “hard-working and unstoppable” by the D&C, continued his superb one-man performance, snapping a hard shot off Voight’s right side to slice the deficit to 3-2. But Engel scored the final goal as Paris could not control the ball.
Both managers, the Lancers’ Roman Kucil, and Concordia’s Wilke Martin, agreed that Kerr was the best Lancer. Kucil told the D&C that Kerr was the most exciting player on the field. Kerr, according to one published report “held the spotlight as he displayed speed, shooting ability and playmaking.”
“My team was better in the main points of soccer,” Martin told the Times-Union. “The entire team worked together on defense and attack. That will be better. The Rochester side had fine speed in the first half. Trained by a good man, the team will go forward. I would like to take No. 8 back with me. This was the best one.”
No. 8 was, of course, Kerr.
D&C news writer Anne Stearns, admitting she did not know much about the beautiful game, wrote that she was quite impressed with what transpired off the pitch. “In contrast to players in other sports, who require rubdowns, pep talks and tender loving care during halftimes, both teams casually tossed balls around on the sidelines for the 10-minute break, and signed autographs for juvenile fans.
“They seemed to enjoy watching the Emerald Statesmen drum and bugle corps, during the halftime presentation, as did the cheering crowd.”
Stearns was taken by the fact the players were so adroit at heading the ball. “This little maneuver is great to watch, but it looks as if it would be worse than a hangover on the average head,” she wrote. “A soccer player assured me later that it doesn’t really hurt. ‘We’ve got hard heads,” he said, with a straight face.”
Remember, this was decades prior to the serious concern of concussions in American gridiron football and soccer.
All things considered, [lead owner Rudy] LePore was happy with turnout, not necessarily the way the things turned out on the field. He said the advance sale was around 1,500 and many college and high school students attended the match. “We’re very satisfied with the turnout,” he told the Rochester Times-Union. “We don’t feel the score is indicative of the type of team we have. This is the first time they were all together.”
And it certainly wasn’t going to be the last.