Goalkeeper Tony Meola and Rough Riders head coach Alfonso Mondelo hug after winning the 1995 USISL title. (Michael Lewis/FrontRowSoccer)

By Michael Lewis

FrontRowSoccer.com Editor

Former Long Island Rough Riders coach Alfonso Mondelo, who directed the club to its first championship in 1995, several years ago was asked to comment about each player on that team.

Today, Sept. 5, is the 25th anniversary of the team winning the U.S. Interregional Soccer League title.

Here were his responses:

Tony Meola, goalkeeper (former U.S. international – three World Cups – who played a major role in the Kansas City Wizards winning the 2000 MLS title and who coached Jacksonville in the North American Soccer League)

“He was the star of the team. It sort of revived his soccer career with us. Wherever we went, it was like traveling with the Beatles. He knew his role well. He won some games by himself with some huge saves. Some of his best soccer was played with the Rough Riders.”

Chico Mieles, goalkeeper

“Very much like Mike Masters and Chris Armas. Talent, class and a gentleman. He knew his role [as a backup after starting the year before]. He played a couple of games. It was very confident to know that if anything happened to Tony, I could put him in goal. He’s a real, real steady goalkeeper. He won many, many games for us in ’94.”

John Diffley, defender (played for Tampa Bay and Kansas City in MLS)

“Another one of those rocky steady guys. Understood his job. Got things going offensively. We were able to build from the back because of him.”

Adrian Gaitan, defender (was an assistant Riders coach under Riley and has coached many successful youth teams)

“The brains of the defense. His reading of the game was excellent. We always kidded him that he never sweat, and his knees were never dirty. Good technical player.”

Martin Munnelly, defender (played a few games with the MetroStars)

“One of the nicest guys on the field. His speed on the flanks was good. What Riley would do on one side, Munnelly would do on the other.”

Travis Rinker, defender (played a few games with the MetroStars)

“A wall in the back. Like Rooney, was firery. His responsibilities was to shut down the leading scorer. Strong, fast, hard to beat.”

Lawrence Piturro defender (played with the New England Revolution)

“One of the mainstays of our backline. He’s calm and had poise and ability to the react to the game along with Adrian Gaitan. Was a big assist for our team that year.”

Steve Cadet, defender (boys coach at Wheatley High School)

“Another one of those role players. Mostly an outside back for us. Tremendous speed. It was hard for anyone to get around him because of his speed. He was a tireless runner. Could make 15-20 runs a game.”

Anthony Roros, defender-forward

“Role player. Sometimes in the back, sometimes up front. When we need a bigger presence up front, we’d use him.”

Jimmy Walther, defender-forward

“Another one of the role players. He was very technical. Like Kevin Anderson, he could play in the front or in the back.”

Chris Armas, midfielder (played with Chicago Fire and U.S. national team and most recently coached the Red Bulls)

“The rock. He’s solid, the steadiest player. You know what you can count on, day in, day out. He’s as steady as they come.”

Jim Rooney, midfielder (starred with the MetroStars and was Miami Fusion captain, and coaches Boca Raton FC in the National Premier Soccer League)

“The fire. Temperamental. Talented. He was as to do the special things in the middle of the field. The spark. Motivated the players in the middle of the field and off of it.”

Paul Riley, midfielder (went on to coach the Riders and North Carolina Courage to championships in their respective leagues)

“Crafty player. Unbalanced the defense. He went one-on-one and provided service to Masters or Savarese. Very quick. He opened things up.”

Danny Mueller, midfielder

“The magic man. One of the most naturally gifted players on the Rough riders. He could make things out of nothing. He was gliding at times. He came through in the big games. He was one of our offensive weapons.”

Kevin Anderson, midfielder (played with the Tampa Bay Mutiny and the A-League champion Minnesota Thunder before coaching the Columbia University men’s squad)

“Utility player. I used Kevin in the middle, in the back. He’s a guy you could play anywhere on the field. Good passer of the ball and could sent balls 35-40 yards to open up the defense.”

Daniel Leon, midfielder (played 10 seasons with the Riders before he entered youth coaching)

“Another one of the sparkplugs coming off the bench to turn things around. When we were down [when the number of corner kicks would determine the winner of tied games that year], we would bring Daniel in and we’d get three-four corners in a matter of a minute. Because of his size, he was like a little devil on the field.”

Cordt Weinstein, midfielder-forward (Riders’ all-time leading scorer who is an assistant men’s coach at Queens College)

“He came off the bench to spark the team in the second half. That was his best role. He was a player who provided a lot of speed. He went in after Giovanni Savarese and Mike Masters banged up the other team. Here comes this player who blows by you. In every game he created opportunities to score.”

Giovanni Savarese, forward (MetroStars/Red Bulls all-time scoring leader for years before it was broken; he guided the Cosmos to three NASL titles and is the current coach of the Portland Timbers)

“Eternal worker. He would put his face in front of a boot. Tireless worker. Tremendous guy in the locker room.”

Mike Masters, forward

“Mike really opened up the game for us and allowed us to play the way we did. A lot of Gio’s goals came from Mike. Every team had to worry about him.”

Richard Nuttall, forward (current Hofstra men’s soccer coach)

“Instant offense. You brought him in then. He was walking around with major braces on his knees. Still was a factor.”

Paul “Tegat” Davis, forward (former Jamaican national team captain)

“Paul’s explosiveness and power front up made him dangerous. He gave us some key goals. He was injured for a big part of the season.”

Here is a related story:

LONG ISLAND’S OWN: 27 years ago, Rough Riders ruled USISL on a dramatic, late goal by Savarese




Front Row Soccer editor Michael Lewis has covered 13 World Cups (eight men, five women), seven Olympics and 25 MLS Cups. He has written about New York City FC, New York Cosmos, the New York Red Bulls and both U.S. national teams for Newsday and has penned a soccer history column for the Guardian.com. Lewis, who has been honored by the Press Club of Long Island and National Soccer Coaches Association of America, is the former editor of BigAppleSoccer.com. He has written seven books about the beautiful game and has published ALIVE AND KICKING The incredible but true story of the Rochester Lancers. It is available at Amazon.com.