Alan Mayer wearing his goalkeeper helmet. (Photo courtesy of NASL Jerseys)
I had the honor of introducing Alan Mayer during his induction into the Long Island Soccer Player Hall of Fame Saturday night. Here is what I said.
To truly appreciate our first inductee’s athletic ability, it should be noted that Alan Mayer’s favorite sport in high school was basketball. He also was an outstanding tennis player.
But Alan forged his reputation as a standout soccer player, a goalkeeper who earned the nickname Kamikaze because he was so fearless.
He once said: “My game is based on aggression. I’m not afraid of being hit. I’ll never back down from anything. If I see a 50-50 ball, I’ll go in on it, and a lot of times I go in headfirst.”
Alan starred in basketball and captured the New York State tennis doubles championship with his brother Bill. At James Madison University, Alan was the tennis team’s MVP three times and earned All-American honors as a goalkeeper twice.
In 1974, he was selected by the Baltimore Comets as the 14th pick in the North American Soccer League draft. That season, he was a backup while being mentored by legendary Trinidad & Tobago goalkeeper Lincoln Phillips before assuming the No. 1 role in 1975.
Alan then embarked on a rather unusual journey as the team moved to three cities in as many years, playing as the San Diego Jaws in 1976, the Las Vegas Quicksilvers in 1977 and the San Diego Sockers in 1978. Meanwhile, the 6-foot, 180-lb. keeper had established himself as one of the top young, American netminders.
His performances caught the eye of U.S. national team coach Walter Chyzowych. Over a two-year period, Alan played in six internationals, recording a 3-1-2 mark. In fact, he became the first American goalkeeper in more than five decades to secure a clean sheet in his debut, in a scoreless draw with Haiti in Port-au-Prince on Nov. 12, 1976.
When his new outdoor team, the California Surf went out of business after the 1981 season, Alan turned to the great indoors fulltime after performing for the Pittsburgh Spirit. He played the 1981-82 Major Indoor Soccer League season with the New Jersey Rockets before rejoining the Sockers for the 1982-83 campaign.
Alan enjoyed some of his most memorable moments, leading the team to the first of two consecutive MISL titles while earning the MVP award, breaking the great Steve Zungul’s four-year stranglehold on the honor.
Alan also played with the Las Vegas Americans and his final four years with the Kansas City Comets, retiring after the 1988-89 season as a three-time indoor all-star.
It was during that time Alan earned that reputation as a fearless goalkeeper. Hence, the nickname Kamikaze, while wearing a padded helmet. That was well before Czech Republic international keeper Peter Cech received publicity wearing a similar helmet himself.
Alan has received many honors over the years. He was inducted into the Islip High School Hall of Fame, JMU Hall of Fame in 1988, Suffolk County Sports Hall of Fame in 2002 and the Indoor Soccer Hall of Fame in 2019. And, he had his number – 0 – retired by the Comets on Feb. 22, 2013. His banner hangs from the rafters of the Independence Events Center in Independence, Kansas, where he still mentors keepers as Comets goalkeeper coach. His son Kenny is assistant goalkeepers coach.
Tonight, Alan will add another award to his trophy case.
It is my honor to induct Alan Mayer into the Long Island Soccer Player Hall of Fame.
Congratulations, Alan. Well deserved!