Contrary to what many soccer fans might believe, professional soccer in the United States did not start with Major League Soccer or the 1994 World Cup. It has been part of the American sports scene for decades.
Long-time soccer writer Michael Lewis gives soccer fans a unique peek into its history in his new book, ALIVE AND KICKING The Incredible but true story of the Rochester Lancers.
While many historians will focus on the success and history of the New York Cosmos in the North American Soccer League, there were other clubs with personalities of their own, believe it or not. And one of them, one of those teams were called the Rochester Lancers.
Based in Western New York, the Lancers in many ways, were the antithesis of the Cosmos.
The Cosmos were a big city team that boasted soccer legends Pele, Carlos Alberto. Franz Beckenbauer, and Giorgio Chinaglia, among other big names and were owned by mammoth Warners Communications.
The Lancers, on the other hand, were a community-owned team with owners who had some money, but certainly not the deep pockets of their southern New York foes. They had decent players, some who could do very well but none in the caliber or orbit of the Cosmos.
The Lancers as the saying goes, lived in interesting times.
They had 21 coaches in their 14 year existence.
They had a player who scored two own goals in a game.
They had a player who played under two different names during his two-year tenure with the team.
They endured a nightmare plane ride home from Washington, D.C. in a thunderstorm in which several players convinced they were going to crash and die.
They also won an NASL team and became the first American pro team to present the USA at the Concacaf Champions Cup, with plenty of adventures getting to Guatemala back in the day.
They also endured a 176-minute playoff game that was decided by a goal a minute before midnight by Carlos Metidieri, the only player in NASL history to lead the league in goals and earn MVP honors in back-to-back seasons.
They had another player, the always dangerous Mike Stojanvoic, who smoked like a chimney who asked to be traded During all his five seasons with the Lancers and an 18-year-old phenom named Branko Segota, who almost single handedly lifted the team into the 1979 playoffs.
And oh yes, Pele, Beckenbauer, Johan Cruyff, and a number of other big time players make cameo appearances.
There are so many more incredible but true stories about this soccer team. Some will make you laugh. Others will make you wince. While yet others will make you cry.
If you want to learn more about the beginnings of the modern pro soccer era, then ALIVE AND KICKING The incredible the true story of the Rochester Lancers is a book that beckons you.
Here’s how you can buy this unique and unusual sports book: