Branko Segota scored the last goal for the original incarnation for the Lancers in 1980. (Deborah M. Bernstein Photo)

By Michael Lewis

FrontRowSoccer.com Editor

Today is the 40th anniversary of the original Rochester Lancers’ final game in the first incarnation of the North American Soccer League.

There were several lasts in that team’s history:

Last game

No one realized it at the time, but it was a 5-0 loss to the Cosmos at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. Aug. 24, 1980, before a crowd of 40,383.

It was no contest as the home side hit the woodwork an amazing five times. Giorgio Chinaglia started the assault with his 32nd goal of the season at 20:53.

“We could have had a million and one goals,” Cosmos sweeper Franz Beckenbauer was quoted in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.

The Cosmos clinched the first seed of the NASL playoffs, which they went on to win. Roberto Cabanas led the way with two goals and Rick Davis and J.C. Romero added one apiece. Midfielders Johan Neeskens and Vladislav Bogicevic assisted on three goals apiece.

“We really could have been embarrassed here tonight,” said Lancers right wing Pat Ercoli, the general manager of the Rochester Rhinos. “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.”

A interesting aside: Lancers assistant public relations director Vinnie Dinolfo burned a Cosmos pennant in the press box.

Last home game

That was a 2-0 loss to the lowly Atlanta Chiefs (7-24) at Holleder Stadium Aug. 22, 1980. David Byrne and Keith Furphy scored goals and Lou Cioffi recorded the shutout.

“We played bad,” Lancers midfielder Gene Strenicer said. “I think we outplayed them, but they played smart soccer. You can’t win games without scoring.”

Last goal

That was scored by Branko Segota in a 3-2 defeat at the Tulsa Roughnecks Aug. 17, 1980. Segota tallied his 11th goal of the season off a 20-yard shot at 49:15. Defender Laszlo Harsanyi assisted on the goal (which also would be the last assists), which tied the gam eat 2-2 at Skelly Stadium. The loss eliminated the Lancers from the playoff race.

Last win

A 2-1 victory at the Philadelphia Fury at Veteran’s Stadium Aug. 13. Striker Mike Stojanovic snapped a 1-1 deadlock with 2:35 remaining in the match past goalkeeper John Rigby.

Pat Ercoli had given Rochester a 1-0 lead off a John Nusum steal at 22:36 before Dave MacWilliams equalized at 44:20. Goalkeeper Enzo DiPede made eight saves.

“We didn’t do anything special” Lancers head coach Alex Perolli said. “Was this a good game? No. With all due respect you don’t have a team here [in Philadelphia]. What    could poor Eddie [Firmani, Fury coach] do with this team. We beat a team that didn’t play.”

The Fury was rumored to be moving to Montreal in 1981, which turned out to be true.

Last home goal

That was scored by midfielder Val Tuksa in a 3-1 setback to the Los Angeles Aztecs Aug. 7, 1980. Tuksa tallied off a Pablo Centrone feed at 82:26. Ilija Ivkovic also assisted.

Last home win

That occurred in a 3-1 triumph over the San Diego Sockers July 30, 1980. Mike Stojanovic scored twice and Gene Strenicer once for the home side. Sockers coach Ron Newman called the Lancers (11-14) “the best team we’ve played on this road trip.”

Here is a related story:

FORTY YEARS AGO TODAY: Original Lancers played their final game, a 5-0 loss at the Cosmos