By Michael Lewis
Now, don’t get me going about the New York Centaurs.
Oops, too late. I already have.
Well, I guess now I will have to talk about the Centaurs, one year A-League wonders who called then decrepit Downing Stadium on Randall’s Island home (yes, the place where Pele made his vaunted debut for the Cosmos in 1975). Some 20 years later, the Centaurs were hoping to find some modicum of success on the same field.
The soccer gods, however, might have had other ideas for the team that played in the still decrepit stadium.
Roger Gorevic, a jewelry and antiques dealer, owned the team.
As it turned out, the Centaurs might have been doomed before their first kickoff as their opening opponents, the Toronto Rockets were thrown out of the league by commissioner Richard Groff for being financially unstable only five days prior to the game.
In Toronto’s place was the defending A-League champion Montreal Impact, which had all of five days to prepare for the game. Still, the Impact played like champions, outshooting the hosts, 16-10, and hitting the woodwork twice en route to a 1-0 win May 17, 1995.
That was only part of the story.
The north penalty area end wound up six yards shy of regulation length on the right side. Yet, the show went on. There was not enough time to fix the problem. Fortunately for both teams, no foul not committed in that area of the field, so a possible controversy was averted.
“It was evident in the match we are not as cohesive a unit as Montreal,” Centaurs head coach Len Roitman said at the time. “It could take as much as half a season for one go-around to play as a unit. People are coming in from all over.”
An announced crowd of 2,753 showed up, which disappointed team officials. “I think we have a little more work to do,” Gorevic said. “We expected a better crowd today.”
The Centaurs needed 5,000 to break even, although Gorevic was hopeful it would draw between 8,000-10,000. They never got close.
The public address system also was spotty, and the field was bumpy, at best.
The Centaurs got their act together in their second game in what turned into their only season in the A-League.
They had some faces and names that you might remember:
* Defender Carlos Llamosa, who went on to represent the U.S. 29 times, while performing at the 2002 World Cup
* Defender Janusz Michallik, another U.S. international who went on to became a TV and radio soccer analyst
* Defender Dan Calichman, who helped the LA Galaxy reach the 1996 MLS Cup
* Goalkeeper Bo Oshoniyi, who backstopped the Kansas City Wizards in the 2004 MLS Cup
* Midfielder-defender David Vaudreuil, who lived up to the world journeyman as he wound up playing for 16 professional clubs in his career
* Forward Darren Eales, who went on to become Atlanta United president
Their presence could not salvage the season.
Roitman was replaced by Cosmos great Vladislav Bogicevic during the season, and the Centaurs improved under the latter, but they finished 6-18 and in last place.
The Centaurs merged with the New York Fever for the 1996 season but wound up playing at Westchester Community College before it went to the big American soccer league in the sky.