Steve Zungul, the Lord of All Indoor. (Soccer Digest)
By Michael Lewis
When you’ve covered as many matches as I have, you can make a list of memorable matches.
I have covered every level of the game, from youth to high school to amateur to semi-pro to college to professional (indoors and out) and international.
With Keith Tozer, Shep Messing and JP Dellacamera coming on board with the Major Arena Soccer League, I figured I would share some memorable indoor soccer games I have covered through the decades.
Just how many leagues have I covered? Six. In chronological order there’s the North American Soccer League, the original Major Indoor Soccer League, National Professional Soccer League (not to be confused with the National Premier Soccer League), the second incarnation of the Major Indoor Soccer League, MASL and Major Arena Soccer League 2 (aka M2).
I then counted the number of cities in which I have covered the beautiful indoor game — Baltimore, Buffalo, Canton, Ohio, Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dayton, Ohio, Detroit, East Rutherford, N.J., Newark, N.J., New York City, Rochester, St. Louis and Uniondale, N.Y.
Presenting 25 memorable matches that I have covered over the past four decades:
- The greatest game ever played (March 27, 1981)
At the start of the fourth quarter of the MISL semifinals at the Checkerdome, the Wichita Wings seemingly had an insurmountable 6-1 advantage over the host St. Louis Steamers and a date with the New York Arrows in the final two days later. Maybe not. In one of the most astonishing rallies in indoor soccer history, the Steamers steamed back from that deficit with six goals in the fourth period to knot things up at 7-7. Every time the Steamers scored, the Budweiser Beer theme music was played, although many fans probably didn’t complain, given what was transpiring on the field. After Don Ebert headed home Steve Pecher’s pass with 69 seconds remaining, the teams battled through a scoreless extratime. Then came the shootout. Reserve forward Emilio John, who participated in only two shifts — and that was in the fourth quarter — converted the game-winning shootout goal to give the hosts an 8-7 triumph in a game and comeback for the ages. “Everybody knows me now,” John said.
- When a goalkeeper outscored the opposition (Jan. 24, 1993)
Syosset, N.Y. native Joe Mallia lived out the goalkeeper’s ultimate fantasy at the Farm Show Arena. He outscored the opposition. In perhaps the rarest of soccer feats, the Syosset, N.Y. native shut out the National-Division leading Wichita Wings, 13-0, and scored a goal in the process. Some 2,914 spectators saw a little bit of NPSL history made as Mallia became the first keeper to accomplish both feats in the same match as he was the first goalie to record a shutout in almost two years. Doug Miller (now coach of the Rochester Lancers) gave the home team all the scoring it needed 93 seconds into the match, knocking home Dan Kelly’s (former Baltimore Blast coach) penalty-area cross for a two-point goal, the first of two scores. Franklin McIntosh, Lee Tschantret, John Abe, Bill Becher and Kelly also found the net. “He had a great game,” Heat head coach Jim Pollihan said. “He came up with the big save. The whole team played great defense. We stifled them a little bit. We took away shots in crucial areas.”
- With 30 seconds to spare (March 29, 1981)
What a way to decide a championship between the two best teams in the MISL. With 30 seconds remaining in regulation, the marvelous Steve Zungul, the Lord of All Indoors, went 1 v 1 with Steamers goalkeeper Slobo Illijevski and deposited the ball into the net for his fourth goal of the match for a 6-5 New York Arrows victory in St. Louis. “I knew exactly what I wanted to do with the ball,” said Zungul, who was set up by midfielder Luis Alberto. “I knew I could draw the goalie out. He was about a second late in coming out and that was enough.” After the final whistle, Pecher took off his jersey and threw it down in disgust as many in the crowd booed and jeered the three-time champions. “They boo because they love me,” Zungul said. “And I love the crowd. I wish we could take those fans back with us to New York.” Arrows goalkeeper Shep Messing made several key saves in the confrontation.
Shep Messing backstopped the Arrows to four consecutive MISL championships.
- A battle royal and the start of a great rivalry, helped by a great Scott (Feb. 8, 1980)
For a Soccer America piece, I wrote that they might have to call out the National Guard when the New York Arrows and Buffalo Stallions played after their clash in Buffalo. Goalkeeper Scott Manning, in relief of starter Jim May in the second half, held the mighty Arrows scoreless as the Stallions recorded a hard-fought 6-5 Major Indoor Soccer League victory that left plenty of hard feelings after a halftime run-in involving Messing, Buffalo forward Slobodan Jankovic and Stallions director of operations Sam Lippa.
Like it or not, Manning’s superb performance and Jankovic’s winning goal at 5:54 of the fourth quarter were overshadowed by the confrontations on and off the field because so many players on each team knew one another from the Rochester Lancers (I called the Arrows Lancers South, the Stallions Lancers West and the Baltimore Blast, Lancers Deep South). It left Arrows coach Dragan Popovic shaking his head and saying, “In my opinion, Sal [DeRosa, Stallions coach] is desperate to win some games. All this fighting — the sporting will become like hockey.” It left DeRosa angered. “I’ve had it with the animals on the soccer field,” he said, referring to Messing. “They offend our beautiful fans. I hope they fine him badly.”
The Arrows entered the match averaging 9.2 goals a match and with a 16-5 record, the Stallions at 9-10. Manning came in cold in the second half after Zungul collided May. He blanked the Cosmos, helping turn a 5-3 halftime deficit into a stunning win before 11,285 at the Aud in Buffalo. “He played a perfect game,” Messing said. “He was in a difficult situation when he came on. He was under a lot of pressure. I don’t know much about him, but I liked what I saw.” Former Rochester Lancer Carlos Metidieri scored a goal and set up two others. Defender Jim Sinclair converted a Metidieri rebound to tie it up at 5-5 in the fourth period before Jankovic tallied the winner off a feed from Iubo Petrovic at 5:54.
That Zungul-May collision was controversial. The Stallions felt Zungul should have been awarded a charging penalty. Only 15 seconds later, Jankovic knocked down Messing. Salas gave the Buffalo forward a two-minute charging penalty. On the way to the locker room, Stallions assistant GM Lippa had words with Messing. Messing said that Jankovic first pushed him, “then butted me in the mouth with his head.” As it turned out, it was only the prelude to some other memorable confrontations between the two rivals.
Scott Manning came off the bench cold and then stoned the high-scoring and legendary New York Arrows for a half in an upset win. (Deborah M. Bernstein Photo)
- Stall Ball (Jan. 30, 1982)
In all my years of covering soccer, I had never seen anything quite like it. While enjoying a 3-1 lead over the expansion New Jersey Rockets during a Sunday blizzard (please don’t ask why I drove from Rochester to Buffalo in horrible weather conditions that day), the Stallions decided to have a personal “catch” between their defenders and goalkeeper Paul Maxi. Defender Dennis Mepham and Maxi did most of the passing back and forth while no Rockets player tried to force the hosts to play the ball forward. This went on for the final four minutes of the first half. The Stallions continued these tactics for some 11 minutes in the third period while New Jersey did nothing to force the issue. Both coaches — the Rockets’ Timo Liekowski and the Stallions’ Ray Klivecka — leveled charges at each other, but the bottom line was that Buffalo won the game, 5-1. In case you were wondering, former Stallions midfielder Joe Horvath had given the visitors a 1-0 lead before the Stallions came back behind two goals from Carlos Salguero and single tallies from Herve Guilliod, Ernie Buriano and Fleming Lund. I called this Stall Ball in a column for Soccer America, an indoor soccer game to forget.
Dennis Mepham played a role in the infamous Stall Ball game. (Photo by Deborah M. Bernstein)
- Feeling a Heat winning streak (January 1992)
In January 1992, I went on a three-game in three-day road trip with the Harrisburg Heat, which was coached by former Lancers and Baltimore Blast star Jim Pollihan for a story in Soccer Week. I wanted to do a slice of life of a team on the road and what better way than to chronicle a busy weekend for an NPSL team. Well, I got more than I bargained for. The Heat won three matches– a 17-10 victory over the Canton Invaders on Jan. 10, a 12-8 win at the Detroit Rockers on Jan. 11 and a 12-11 triumph at the Dayton Dynamo on Jan. 12. “I don’t know if anyone has done that,” Pollihan said. “That was a hallmark of the NPSL when Steve Paxos was the commissioner. It seemed that every year, you had to have one of those trips. Every team ended up doing it. Everyone wanted to play on weekends, have their home games on weekends because we draw so much better on weekends than you do during the week.”
In January 1993, I spent a weekend chronicling what the Heat did on and off the field in Harrisburg and the team finished 2-0, defeating the Baltimore Spirit, 19-9, on Jan. 22 and then the Wings on Jan. 24. That included Mallia’s incredible feat of scoring a goal and recording a shutout in the same game (see item No. 2). Goalkeepers have accomplished both, but rarely, if never, in the same contest. “Those were some good times. We had some very exciting games and we pulled out some big, big victories,” Pollihan said.
- The return of the Lancers (2011)
I never thought I would live to see the day. When the Lancers were booted out of the North American Soccer League in 1980, I thought they were done and buried. But original Lancers fan Salvatore “SoccerSam” Salvatore had other ideas. Years prior he had purchased the rights to the team logo and name and brought them back as an indoor team. In the Lancers’ second game of their MISL venture, they were whipped by the Missouri Comets, 13-4, before a crowd of 6,528 at the Blue Cross Arena at the Community War Memorial in Rochester, N.Y.. Jeremy Ortiz and Mauricio Salles, who scored off a bicycle kick, got on the scoresheet for the Lancers. Ryan Junge led Missouri (3-0) with five points and a long three-point goal. Reigning league MVP Bryon Alvarez contributed two assists. The result didn’t matter. The Lancers were back.
- A comeback for the ages (May 2, 1982)
With 82 seconds remaining in regulation, the Arrows, then three-time MISL champions, trailed the Buffalo Stallions and were on the brink of elimination from the MISL playoffs. Instead of folding they rallied for goals from Zungul (1:22 left) and Omar Gomez (44 seconds remaining) off scrambles. The Arrows evened the best-of-three series at one game apiece on Dragan Simic’s goal at 6:55 of sudden-death overtime. “As long as I’m on the field and my team is struggling for something, we’re never dead,” said Zungul, who finished with three goals and an assist. The Arrows won game three and went on to capture their fourth consecutive title.
Former Ghanan international Frank Odoi starred for the Rochester Lancers in 1975.
- There’s a first time for everything (1975)
Only weeks after I was assigned to cover the Lancers for the North American Soccer League season, the league held four regional indoor tournaments. The Lancers hosted one at the Blue Cross Arena. This tournament involved 16 teams in four venues. The Lancers hosted the Region II tourney at the Community War Memorial as the Boston Minutemen, Hartford Bicentennials and New York Cosmos battled for a berth in the national final four from Feb. 8-10. It should be noted that the indoor goals back in those days measured four feet high by 16 feet wide, so goalkeepers had to be especially adept at diving for the ball. Today’s indoor soccer goal measures eight and a half feet high by 14 feet across. On opening night that Thursday, the Cosmos recorded a 6-4 win over the Bicentennials before a crowd of 2,191. Fred Grgurev, who wound up playing with the Lancers from 1979-80, scored twice for the winners. In the second game of the doubleheader, Rochester got off to a strong start with a 1-0 edge on an Eddie Jijon goal but could not keep the momentum going in a 4-3 defeat to the Minutemen and Messing, who made his indoor soccer debut. In their second game that Saturday night, the Lancers rebounded with an 8-7 victory over the Cosmos. Frank Odoi struck twice, including the dramatic game-winner with seven seconds left in the match.
- One memorable Garden party (Feb. 11, 1981)
Given what the Eastern Division boasted on the field and the bench, many spectators at the second MISL all-star game, at Madison Square Garden, figured they knew who would prevail. But the Western Division, behind MVP Adrian Brooks’ two goals and Paul Kitson’s short-handed score, pulled off an 8-5 upset in front of 13,170. The Eastern squad was loaded with players from the Arrows (27-3). “The West wanted it more,” said Branko Segota, who collected a goal and two assists. “The East didn’t want it as much as Popovic did.” That would be Arrows and East coach Don Popovic. “The best players don’t always fit together best,” Arrows defender David D’Errico said. “Our individuals were better, but the West’s blended together.” Joe Machnik, a Brooklyn, N.Y. native and a long-time New York Rangers hockey fan, realized a dream when he worked the middle of that game.
Don Popovic coached the New York Arrows to the first four MISL titles.
- The wrong type of spirit of ’76 (Feb. 13, 1981)
Now this certainly wasn’t anything you saw much during the heyday of the Arrows — Zungul’s point-scoring streak getting snapped — at an astonishing 76 games (since January 1979). Only two days after the MISL all-star game, the Arrows probably played their worst game of the season in a 4-2 home defeat to the Baltimore Blast, which became the first team in three years to beat New York twice at home. “We played very bad,” Popovic said. “Nobody cared. Everybody was sleeping. … The six players on the all-star team were the worst players on the field. They thought once they stepped onto the field they were going to win the game.”
Jake Schindler scored twice in the Rochester Lancers’ return to indoor soccer in 2019. (Photo courtesy of the Lancers)
- A memorable return and a great start (Jan. 4, 2019)
After a four-year hiatus from the indoor game, the Lancers could not have asked for a better start as they registered a 7-3 season-opening victory over the Detroit Waza Flo before a capacity crowd of 2,500 at the Dome Arena in Henrietta, N.Y. Jake Schindler and Boomer Stiegleman struck for two goals apiece. Every time the Lancers scored, the lights above the arena flashed blue and gold in celebration. There were plenty of those celebrations as Boomer struck twice in the opening period and Enrique, one of the several returnees, added another score in the opening minutes of the second quarter. Rochester goalkeeper Marcelo Moreira was credited with seven saves, coming up big in the final period to hold Detroit at bay.
- A Cosmos embarrassment on and off the field (Jan. 30, 1985)
What a frigging mess. Not only were the Cosmos embarrassed by the San Diego Sockers in a 6-1 MISL loss before a crowd of 9,285 at the Meadowlands Arena in East Rutherford, N.J., there was controversy outside the locker room. Jean Willrich pumped in four goals and Zungul added a goal and four assists. “I feel sorry for what’s happening to them,” Zungul said. “I hope this team will find the best solution because this is the best market, and it would be a shame to lose this franchise.” There was plenty of off-the-field drama as Cosmos managing director Peppe Pinton refused to allow Bergen Record writer Bob Kurland, who also was the president of the Professional Soccer Reporters Association, into the locker room. Kurland had written several stories about the Cosmos’ financial troubles that indicated the team may not finish the season. “This is the man who ruined the franchise,” Pinton shouted. “”Get out of here. You don’t belong here. You’re a disgrace. Get out of here. You can write whatever you want. We’ll put people in here without you.” Pinton reportedly berated other reporters in the locker room. “We don’t need any of you,” he said. Several weeks later, the Cosmos folded midway through the season. Later that year the Cosmos pulled the plug for good outdoors, at least until their 2013 reboot season.
- Metros-Croatia make some noise (March 29, 1975)
This turned out to be an exhibition game between two rivals — Rochester and Toronto in the International Soccer Cup. For yours truly, it was a learning experience. The Toronto Metros-Croatia prevailed, 10-7, before 2,562 at the War Memorial. There are two things that I remember about that game and they occurred afterwards. A few Toronto players got a hold of a small program from the game and they didn’t like the fact they were called the Metros. They claimed the team should be called the Metros-Croatia. I was astounded why an ethnic name would be part of a team in a national league. When I spoke with Lancers forward Tommy Ord, I had trouble understanding his cockney accent and he spoke English! I said to myself, “If I couldn’t understand his English, how could I have a chance of figuring out players with heavier accents had to say?” I thought I would be in a for a long season, but it worked out fine. Oh, and one last thing. Tickets for the game were $3.50 for adults and $2.00 for youth under 18 and senior citizens.
Tommy Ord played indoor soccer for the Rochester Lancers and Buffalo Stallions. (Buffalo Stallions photo)
- A lesson in teamwork (Feb. 23, 1982)
The Eastern Division might have had the stars, but the Western Division had the teamwork in the 1982 MISL all-star game before 13,426 at the Aud in Buffalo. Game MVP Tony Glavin of the St. Louis Steamers scored three goals and added two assists as the West bested the East, 9-5. It was the Western Division’s third win in as many all-star encounters. For the record, Kevin Kewley (Wichita) scored twice for the West, while Helmut Dudek and Stan Stamenkovic (both Memphis) and Pecher and Ty Keough (both St. Louis) added goals. The Baltimore Blast’s Peter Baralic had a brace for the East.
An interesting aside: During a media match — writers vs. TV/radio people — a day prior I scored my first goal ever in a competitive game. It was a what I called a typical indoor goal. The ball rebounded off the board on the right side and with the goalkeeper out of the net, all I had to do was knock it in. My inside voice told me not to smash it and I listened. It tied the game at 7-7 en route to a 10-9 victory. I celebrated by punching the sky, much like what Pele did with most of his goals. Oh yeah, one other thing: when I came back to play defense as a right wing, I was matched up with the great Kyle Rote, Jr., who was a broadcaster for the USA Network at the time. So, he wasn’t a ringer. Rote could have dominated the match as a forward or a midfielder, but he decided to play left defense and be a playmaker from the point. Yours truly being so lacking in skills, managed to kick Rote’s legs so many times I lost count. I also apologized to him every time, which might have set some sort of a record
- Behind the scenes of a demolition (May 25, 1985)
I managed to get into a CBS TV truck for a behind-the-scenes look at the MISL playoff final series between the host Blast and Sockers at the Civic Center in Baltimore. While this writer got a lesson or two on TV production, the Sockers gave the Blast many lessons in what turned into a surprising 14-2 rout before 9,084 fans. Zungul was in the middle of things again, scoring only once but setting up seven goals while eclipsing several records he set years earlier. “”I played defense, midfielder and offense,” Zungul said. ” I did everything that people who understand soccer like to see. Added Baltimore head coach Kenny Cooper: “I’ve never seen a performance like that.” Willrich finished with four goals, Brian Quinn with a hat-trick. The win gave the Blast a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series that it eventually won.
Branko Segota (left), pictured with Damir Sutveski, was a teenage scoring star with the Arrows. (Photo courtesy of Branko Segota)
- Some controversial comments (Feb. 20, 1983)
Things weren’t going well for the four-time MISL champions, Segota joined the Fort Lauderdale Strikers after the 1981 season and Zungul had recently been sold to the Golden Bay Earthquakes. Worse, the Arrows (17-13) were in third place in the Eastern Division, four games behind the first-place Baltimore Blast (20-8) after dropping a 7-6 road decision to the Stallions. Afterwards, Popovic said he would step down at the end of the season. “I’m going to leave the Arrows at the end of the season,” said Popovic, who had guided the team to a 131-39 record. “Five years is a lot of time with one club. I’d like a different challenge. I think it’s time to contribute to a different team. … I still love New York very much.” He added: “I am very tired, very tired. I haven’t taken a vacation for five years. I want to enjoy my life and my wife.” When he returned to New York, Popovic denied he said these quotes as he eventually was fired by Arrows president Terry Leiweke, who said the Popovic’s comments were not fair to the team. At the time, I did not use a tape recorder, so I had no way to defend those quotes. Fortunately, Budd Bailey was working for a Buffalo radio station and he was part of the 2-on-1 interview and proved that my quotes were correct. Yes, I have used a VOR for many years.
Former USMNT goalkeeper Tony Meola played with the New Jersey Ironmen in 2007. (Andy Mead/YCJ Photo)
- Going to the Xtreme (Dec. 1, 2007)
After the Cosmos and Rockets failed in the MISL, a third try at indoor soccer was made in New Jersey. This time the New Jersey Ironmen joined a new version of the MISL. The team boasted former U.S. international goalkeeper Tony Meola, who had been a regular in two World Cups and made several outstanding saves in an 8-6 victory over the Detroit Ignition. Forward Dan Antoniuk scored three two-point goals. The presence of Pele, who took the honorary kickoff, certainly did not hurt the crowd of 13,249 at the Prudential Center in Newark.
Prior to the game, Pele held a press conference with the media, talking about where American was, is and where it was heading in the future, among other topics. When I asked a question, Pele recognized me from previous pressers and gatherings and before he answered, saying that I had followed him all over the world (well, I did do interviews and stories about him at World Cups, etc.). It was stunning that he had given me a shoutout. Wow. That made my night.
- A one-man wrecking crew (April 2, 1982)
With 4:54 remaining in the third period, seemed to have the game in hand, enjoying a 5-2 lead over the Arrows. Or so the visitors thought. In a mere 37 seconds at the Nassau Coliseum, the Lord of All Indoors singlehandedly (or was that singlefootedly?) destroyed the Baltimore Blast. At 10:06, Steve Zungul raced into the penalty area and fired the ball over goalkeeper Sepp Gantenhammer into the net. At 10:24, Juan Carlos Michia intercepted a Blast pass and fed Zungul, who race in on the keeper and scored. And at 10:43, Michia again turned an interception into a Zungul breakway. This time Zungul faked right, the goalkeeper went left, and the Arrows had a 5-5 tie. Zungul set up the go-ahead goal minutes later and finished with five goals in an 8-6 Arrows win. Zungul’s amazing accomplishment broke his own record of three goals within 1:06. “He was amazing,” Popovic said. “We regained our confidence. The goals demoralized them badly. It killed them. They looked lost.” At the time Zungul had a league-leading 103 goals and 60 assists. “I don’t have to prove myself,” he said. “I’ve proved myself for four years. The only thing left is to play more so we can be one of the regular sports on television — like baseball and football — so young kids can follow us. Soccer in this country is still not in a strong position.”
Gio Savarese was a standout goal-scorer no matter what type of soccer he played. (Michael Lewis/FrontRowSoccer.com)
- Testing the waters (Feb. 12, 1995)
Before they captured the U.S. Interregional Soccer League title, the Long Island Rough Riders decided to test the ways of indoor soccer at the old Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, N.Y. on a Sunday afternoon. After recording a 12-8 triumph two days prior over the host Baltimore Bays, they completed their sweep with a 5-2 win before a crowd of 4,453. “This was a little experiment,” Rough Riders general manager Jimmy Kilmeade said. “We’re testing the waters.” Juan Ramon Pacheco broke a 2-2 tie with 2:13 remaining in the game. Daniel Leon and Danny Mueller added sixth-attacker goals. Matt Roberto and Giovanni Savarese had scored earlier for the Riders. “This team is designed to win,” Riders head coach Alfonso Mondelo said. “This win sets the tone of the season. We’re expecting great things this year.” After the match, the Riders invited Gregory DeLorenzo, a 12-year-old player on the Dix Hills Thunders who was battling brain cancer, into their locker room. He was quickly greeted by members of the team, who signed his hat. Several days prior to the game, several players, including Paul Riley and Kevin Anderson and Kilmeade visited DeLorenzo and brought balls and pictures. They spent 2 1/2 hours talking to him.
- What a mess (January 24, 1987)
What a mess, indeed. Despite the New York Express’ 6-3 home defeat to the Cleveland Force, I was looking forward to catching up talking with Popovic, whom I was back on speaking terms. There was one problem: Popovic avoided the media after the game and reportedly had flown to Los Angeles afterwards to discuss the Los Angeles Lazers’ coaching vacancy after Peter Wall was fired. Popovic, who had been a consultant with the club for a month, directed his first game behind the bench, even though he did not have a contract. Gino DiFlorio recorded a hat-trick for the winners, including two power-play goals. Five days later, the club announced that Popovic jumped ship and named interim coach Mark Steffens as permanent head coach. The club shut down several weeks later.
Prior to that game, yours truly made his presence felt in another media game. This time I played left defense. I think we won, but it doesn’t matter. I was quite proud of the fact, I managed to clear the ball out of the zone when it was in the corner. Our goalkeeper said, “Pass it to me.” I ignored him because since we never practiced or played together before, he could have been at one end of the goal and my pass would have been on the other for an own goal. So, I battled my man and cleared the zone. I explained why I ignored him, after the game. He understood. And yes, old dogs can learn new tricks by watching the beautiful game.
Tommy Mulroy, marking Pele in the photo, scored twice for the New York Express in an exhibition game in 1986. (Photo courtesy of the Cosmos)
- Filling the net (Feb. 19, 1986)
In what certainly was not a preview of what was to come, the New York Express equaled a Nassau Coliseum scoring record en route to a 15-2 exhibition win over Sporting Club of Portugal. It was the expansion team’s third win in a row of a four-match series against European sides. The Arrows set the mark in a 15-10 victory over the Phoenix Inferno on Dec. 4, 1981. Former Cosmos forward Mark Liveric led the Express with four goals and three assists while Luis Alberto, Tom Mulroy, Greg Lawrence and Declan McSheffrey each tallied twice. Sammi Joseph added a goal and four assists. The attendance was reported at 4,817. “I’m not thrilled by that figure,” Express owner-goalkeeper Shep Messing said. “But, considering it was a rainy Wednesday night, I’m not devastated, either.” When the games truly meant something in league play for the 1986-87 season, the Express crashed and burned, dropping out of the MISL at the all-star break with an embarrassing 3-23. mark.
- Now it can be told (1981-82)
During the Arrows’ great championship run, I discovered a way to stop the incomparable Zungul from scoring: Put a woman photographer on the Arrows bench. Honest. It seemed that every time this photographer — she asked that her name not be used — sat an invited guest on the Arrows bench, Zungul would wind up scoreless and the Arrows would lose. Was it a coincidence? Was it a bad game? Or was it having a woman on the bench? Remember this was nearly four decades ago.
As it turned out, no one complained, but then again the Arrows lost so infrequently that few players, if any, would be truly concerned about one loss or Zungul’s lack of production (he amassed a league-record 652 goals in 423 matches, and was a scoring terror in his early years.
On Feb. 13, 1981, when Arrows coach Don Popovic invited said photographer to sit on the team bench to take photos from there. The Arrows dropped a rare home game to the archrival Blast that night, 4-2, looking awful in the process.
After a few games I noticed an interesting pattern. A little later that year, the photographer was on the bench for the Arrows’ game in Buffalo — an 8-4 defeat and another scoreless game for Zungul on March 7 (he exploded for several goals the next day vs. the Chicago Horizon). She was back on the bench for a 6-5 Arrows loss in Buffalo — and yet another Zungul blanking — on Feb. 5, 1982.
We never told anyone, figuring if Popovic ever found out, he probably would have banned the photographer for life from whatever arena his team was playing. Now, with Zungul long retired and that league in permanent mothballs, it can be told.
- Sitting with the fans (Jan. 17, 1998)
With nothing to do on a Saturday night during the 1998 National Soccer Coaches Association of America (now United Soccer Coaches) convention in Cincinnati, myself and dozens of attendees decided to watch a NPSL game between the Cincinnati Silverbacks and Cleveland Crunch at the Crown. It was nearby, so we walked from the convention center. Not much was written about the match, although I sat with the Bodensteins of the Massapequa Soccer Shop during the game. I must admit I did not remember much about the contest, although Cleveland had this tall defender — 6-7 Trinidad & Tobago international Shawn Boney in the back. I managed to track down the final score through the Akron Beacon Journal. Hector Marinaro recorded two goals and three assists and Zoran Karic added two goals in a 14-11 Crunch win.
- A gold medal Sunday (February 24, 1980)
I must admit, I don’t remember much about the Stallions’ 9-5 home loss to Houston Summit Soccer that day. It was a game for Buffalo to forget since it dropped the team to 11-15 before it made a late push to reach the playoffs. During the matinee match, I remember the scoreboard at the Aud flashing the final score of the U.S.’s final hockey game at the Lake Placid Olympics: USA 4, Finland 2, a result that gave the Americans the hockey gold medal. Needless to say, the crowd at the Aud went crazy and for good reason. I still get goose bumps remembering seeing the score.
Here is another story you might be interested in: