No one realized it at the time, but the original Rochester Lancers played their final game in the old North American Soccer League four decades ago today on Sunday, Aug. 24, 1980. They dropped a 5-0 decision to the Cosmos.
While the five-goal margin seemed rather excessive, the final score easily could have been 10-0 if not for the woodwork and goalkeeping of Enzo DiPede at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.
“We could have had a million and one goals,” Cosmos sweeper Franz Beckenbauer said.
Even the Lancers realized it would have been worse.
“We really could have been embarrassed here tonight,” Lancers right wing Pat Ercoli said. “As it was, we didn’t do too badly. The Cosmos are a great team, a collection of superstars. We should be glad it wasn’t any worse.”
Rochester finished with a 12-20 record, the only time in it 14-year history and 11 years in the NASL the club reached 20 losses in a season.
The Cosmos, who were on their way to their third NASL crown four seasons, were led by Roberto Cabanas’ two goals. Midfielders Johan Neeskens and Vladislav Bogicevic chipped in three goals apiece.
The hosts hit the crossbar or posts five times, including on three occasions by Giorgio Chinaglia. They also were denied at least three other times of sure goals by DiPede in front of a crowd of 40,383.
The Lancers suffered a team-record 10th shutout.
Their attack wasn’t helped by the absence of teenage striker Branko Segota, who was left behind in Rochester by head coach Alex Perolli. Club spokesman Wayne Fuller said Segota “wasn’t in the coach’s plans.
Segota apparently angered Perolli by missing a team banquet earlier that week and then by arguing with forward Mike Stojanovic on who would take a free kick in the 2-0 home defeat to the Atlanta Chiefs two days prior.
The Lancers’ tumultuous season was overshadowed by an ownership way between the Rochester faction of Pat Dinolfo, Charlie Schiano and Nuri Sabuncu, and John Luciani and Bernie Rodin of New York. It didn’t end well for the team, the owners and the soccer fans of Rochester as the club was terminated by the NASL during the offseason.
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