EPISODE #71: National Soccer Hall of Fame Coach Al Miller - Part Two

We conclude our conversation with National Soccer Hall of Fame coach Al Miller, who shares a wide array of additional recollections, anecdotes, musings, and insights from a legendary career across US outdoor and indoor soccer, including:

  • An historic February 11, 1974 indoor game at Philadelphia’s Spectrum between Miller’s NASL champion Atoms and Moscow’s Red Army – generally acknowledged as the true genesis of the Major Indoor Soccer league four years later;
  • The positives and the negatives of the New York Cosmos “superteam” that dominated the NASL in the late 1970s/early 1980s;
  • Trading the Dallas Tornado’s cozy downtown confines of SMU’s Ownby Stadium for the major league bigtime of Irving’s Texas Stadium;
  • The only-in-the-NASL saga of the one-year Calgary Boomers;
  • Reuniting with Lamar Hunt via the 1983 Tampa Bay Rowdies; AND
  • Helping the city of Cleveland end a 30-year pro sports championship drought with the 1993-94 NPSL season-winning Cleveland Crunch.

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EPISODE #70: National Soccer Hall of Fame Coach Al Miller

In February 1973, the suddenly ascendant North American Soccer League hurriedly awarded a new franchise to Philadelphia construction magnate Thomas McCloskey, despite the league’s fast-approaching season start date of May 1st.  The result of some Super Bowl VII arm-twisting by Kansas City Chiefs (and NASL Dallas Tornado) owner Lamar Hunt after helping McCloskey secure last-minute tickets, the team that would soon become the Philadelphia Atoms had only three months to move from birth to first game. 

In desperate need of a head coach, McCloskey and GM/soccer novice Bob Ehlinger turned to a bright young Hartwick College coach named Al Miller to hastily assemble a roster and a playing style, which Miller quickly achieved with a handful of English lower-division journeymen married with a bevy of hungry, underappreciated American players from the college ranks – rapidly gelling into an NASL championship team that stunned the pro soccer pundits (including the editors of Sports Illustrated), and became a Philly fan sensation.

The immediate success of the Atoms and its decidedly American-style approach to the world’s game quickly thrust Miller into the US soccer coaching spotlight and set in motion a standout pro career that traversed the NASL, MISL and indoor NPSL (not to mention a brief stint helming the 1975 US Men’s National Team), and, ultimately a red jacket into the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2008.

In the first of a two-part interview, Miller joins host Tim Hanlon to reveal some never-before-heard stories from the front lines of his pioneering coaching career, including the Atoms, the Dallas Tornado, the one-year Calgary Boomers, the Tampa Bay Rowdies, the MISL Cleveland Force, and the three-time NPSL champion Cleveland Crunch.   

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EPISODE #67: Behind-the-Scenes Tales from the Front Office with Thom Meredith

Our World Cup fever has yet to break, and we spend this week reveling in some of the heretofore unexplored (at least on this podcast) nooks and crannies of modern-day American pro soccer history with one of its most unsung front office heroes. 

In a career spanning over four decades, sports PR and event management executive Thom Meredith has proverbially “seen it all” across some of US sports’ most remarkable leagues, franchises and governing bodies – including remarkable (and sometimes dubious) assignments like handling press for the woeful NFL expansion Tampa Bay Buccaneers of 1976-77, managing communications for Lamar Hunt’s World Championship Tennis circuit of the early 1980s, and directing a litany of events for the fast-growing (and World Cup USA-fueled) US Soccer Federation of the 1990s. 

But it’s Meredith’s work across some of the most exciting (and exasperating) teams of the late 1970s/early 1980s North American Soccer League – the Tampa Bay Rowdies, Washington Diplomats, Philadelphia Fury, and Dallas Tornado – as well as the enormously well-funded, but ultimately ill-fated Women’s United Soccer Association of the early 2000s, that really piques our obsessive interests.

In this episode, we journey back with Meredith – the consummate professional soccer management insider – as he recounts priceless moments shared in the trenches with a veritable Who’s Who of the modern American game’s most indelible personalities: Shep Messing, Francisco Marcos, Al Miller, Phil Woosnam, Jim Karvellas, Seamus Malin, Alec Papadakis, John Hendricks, Timo Liekoski, Dick Berg, Tony DiCicco, Pele – and, of course, the incomparable investor-patron Hunt.

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EPISODE #19: American Soccer “Superstar” Kyle Rote, Jr.

National Soccer Hall of Fame inductee and three-time ABC-TV “Superstars” champion Kyle Rote, Jr. joins Tim Hanlon from his home in Memphis for an in-depth and wide-ranging conversation about his trailblazing journey as America’s first true native-born professional soccer star. 

Along the way, Rote, Jr. reveals:

  • How a fortuitous heart-to-heart with his famous football star-father helped convince him to choose soccer over football for his pro career;
  • How a standout Rookie of the Year season with the 1973 Dallas Tornado helped thrust him into the North American Soccer League’s national marketing spotlight;
  • The remarkable impact of winning a made-for-TV athletic competition against the biggest stars of the “traditional” sports world;
  • The unique relationship he developed with the New York Cosmos’ international legend Pelé,  and the public relations narrative the NASL built around them;
  • How lucrative marketing endorsements made up for embarrassingly low-paying player contracts;
  • The serendipitous story of how he helped rescue an MISL team from the “hell” of Hartford; AND
  • The unmistakable higher power that continually guided him through the ups and downs of professional athletics – both on the field and off.

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EPISODE #05: Bobby Moffat & the 1970s NASL Dallas Tornado

Former Dallas Tornado defensive stalwart Bobby Moffat (The Basic Soccer Guide) joins Tim Hanlon to reminisce about life in the 1970s North American Soccer League, and how his commitment to nurturing the game’s grass roots in the Metroplex became the envy of US soccer enthusiasts during a tenuous decade for the sport. Moffat recounts how not-so-glamorous off-the-field jobs helped him and most of his teammates make ends meet; how Dallas’ 1971 marathon overtime-riddled championship season helped usher in needed tie-breaking into NASL games; how the Tornado became the last-minute exhibition foil for Pele’s 1975 New York Cosmos national TV debut (despite having played a league match 1,800 miles away in San Antonio the night before); and why the NASL “lost the plot” when it came to capitalizing on the indoor game.

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