Carlos Metidieri, nicknamed El Topolino (The Little Mouse), takes on Mickey Mouse back in the day. He also played for the Lancers’ in the first NASL indoor tournament. (Photo courtesy of the Lancers)
First of a five-part series
At halftime of Friday night’s game against the Baltimore Blast at the Dome Arena in Henrietta, N.Y., the Rochester Lancers will honor 20 individuals who will be inducted into the first class of the team’s indoor Wall of Fame. This week FrontRowSoccer.com looks back at the history of indoor soccer in Rochester.
By Michael Lewis
The Rochester Lancers and indoor soccer have been alive and kicking for almost five decades.
The original Lancers participated in the first professional tournament in modern times when the sport was known was known then as hoc-soc, in that it was a combination of hockey and soccer.
Then the defending outdoor champions of the North American Soccer League, the Lancers were invited to perform in a four-team competition hosted by the St. Louis Stars at The Arena on March 19, 1971.
Coached by the legendary Ron Newman — for which the Major Arena Soccer League’s championship trophy is named — the Dallas Tornado defeated the Lancers, 3-0, before 5,060 spectators at The Arena and took home the top prize of $1,000 (which would be worth $6,312.52, according to inflation).
In the opening match that was played on AstroTurf that was played on the venue’s ice, the Lancers recorded a 3-1 win over the Washington Darts. John Kerr, who played in the Lancers’ very first game, an exhibition match at old Aqunias Stadium in 1967, lifted Washington into a 1-0 lead at 5:40 of the opening half before Rochester dominated the first of the encounter, thanks to Manfred Seissler and Eli Durante.
Durante set up Seissler’s goal at 13:08 before he scored the go-ahead goal 37 seconds later. Carlos Metidieri gave the Lancers some breathing room, putting home a Seissler feed at 14:43 of the second half. Rochester outshot the Darts, 23-15.
In the championship game, the Lancers did not fare as well as Dallas dominated behind tournament MVP Mike Renshaw’s two unassisted tallies, at 12:15 of the opening half and 9:08 of the second half. John Best added a third goal at 13:11 of the final half. Shots on goals statistics were not available.
Midfielder Don Popovic, who went on to coach the Lancers for four seasons (1976-79) and guide the New York Arrows to Major Indoor Soccer League with four chamionships glory, recorded a brace in the consolation game, the Stars’ 2-0 victory over the Washington Darts. Popovic, incidentally, was named to the all-tournament team along with the Lancers defender Peter Short and Seissler, the Tornado’s Jim Benedek (a goal in the opening 2-1 triumph over the Stars), and St. Louis goalkeeper Miguel de Lima.
“Certainly our boys showed in their second game they were probably the best conditioned of any of the groups of players,” Stars head coach George Meyer told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “Popovic especially seemed to get adapted to hoc-soc after a slow start and put us over the top in the consolation game.”
NASL commissioner Phil Woosnam was encouraged with what he witnessed that Friday night and was hopeful he could make indoor soccer part of the league’s DNA.
“I think hoc-soc has a potential as a league undertaking,” he was quoted by Post-Dispatch, “and we will take it up at league meeting in about 10 days. If you can generate this much enthusiasm for mere exhibition games, a league schedule would be much more attractive.”
Tomorrow: The indoor game and a tournament comes to Rochester, N.Y.