EPISODE #115: The North American Soccer League’s Rochester Lancers – With Michael Lewis

After more than 40 years of covering the “beautiful game,” Newsday sportswriter and FrontRowSoccer.com editor Michael Lewis (Soccer for Dummies) knows more than a thing or two about the evolution of soccer in this country.  A self-professed “Zelig of soccer,” the NYC-based Lewis has covered some of the sport’s most important events, including eight World Cups, seven Olympic tournaments, and all 23 MLS Cups (and counting) – not to mention an endless array of matches and related off-the-field activities across leagues and competitions on both the domestic and international stages over that span.  If it happened in American soccer since his start as a cub reporter at the Rochester (NY) Democrat and Chronicle in 1975, Lewis was probably there.

It was in Rochester that Lewis got his first taste of US pro soccer as the assigned beat reporter for the North American Soccer League’s fledgling Rochester Lancers – a team that literally helped save the down-to-four-team league from extinction in 1970 when owner Charlie Schiano moved the club from the regional semi-pro American Soccer League (along with the similarly-situated Washington Darts) where it had played since 1967.

The Lancers promptly won the title in their first NASL season, and featured the circuit’s first breakout star – 5′ 4″ Brazilian scoring sensation Carlos “Little Mouse” Metidieri, who nabbed league MVP honors in both 1970 & 1971. 

By 1973, however, Metidieri had been traded to the expansion Boston Minutemen, and Schiano was forced to sell controlling interest in the club to bolster its finances – and the Lancers promptly descended into mediocrity.  Though Schiano re-acquired majority ownership in late 1976, the team rarely achieved more than middling success thereafter – save for an anomalous 1977 season that saw the small-market Lancers fall one playoff game short of reaching the NASL title game, despite compiling only an 11-15 regular season record. 

The Lancers’ final seasons were also marred by internecine warfare between an increasingly cash-strapped Schiano and new investors John Luciani and Bernie Rodin – exacerbated by the team’s off-season moonlighting in the semi-rival Major Indoor Soccer League as the Long Island-based New York Arrows.  The two factions faced off in court during the 1980 NASL season, with the league terminating the franchise at season’s end.

While outdoor soccer soon returned to Rochester in 1981 with the ASL Flash, the indoor Arrows went on to win four consecutive MISL titles with much of the Lancers’ late 1970s NASL outdoor roster, including notables like Branko Segota, Shep Messing, Dave D’Errico, Val Tuksa, Renato Cila, Damir Sutevski, and head coach Dragon “Don” Popovic.

Thank you 503 Sports, SportsHistoryCollectibles.com, Streaker Sports, Audible, and OldSchoolShirts.com for your support of this week’s show!

Soccer for Dummies (First Edition) - buy here

EPISODE #15: MISL Memories with Michael Menchel

This week, Tim Hanlon buckles up for a wild ride through the tumultuous early years of the original Major Indoor Soccer League with sports PR veteran Michael Menchel, in our longest and most anecdote-filled episode yet!  Menchel takes us on a head-spinning audio journey across some of the most memorable (and forgettable) franchises in professional indoor soccer history – including stops in Long Island, NY (the Arrows trade for Pete Rose!), New Jersey (scoring champ Fred Grgurev’s unique approach to car maintenance!), Houston (the “Summit Soccer” borrows its name from the arena it plays in and its players from the NASL’s Hurricane!), Baltimore (the marketing genius of Tim Leiweke!), and Hartford (what the hell is a “Hellion”?).  Plus, Menchel:  hits the road with Frank Deford;  spends a year outdoors among the Caribou(s?) of Colorado;  has a bad day in Rochester, NY;  and “settles down” in St. Louis wondering when and where the NFL football Cardinals will move next.  Thanks to Audible for sponsoring this week’s episode!

EPISODE #14: Radio Personality Terry Hanson’s Formative Years in NASL Soccer

Syndicated morning radio personality Terry Hanson (The Big Show with John Boy & Billy) joins Tim Hanlon to discuss the formative years of his renaissance career in sports and media, across three of the original North American Soccer League’s more memorable franchises.  Hanson waxes nostalgic about doling out “Americanized” first names to the Serbian-infused roster of 1976’s Rochester Lancers; moonlighting in the Washington Diplomats broadcast booth with play-by-play pros Jon Miller and Don Earle; and marketing a reborn, Ted Turner-owned Atlanta Chiefs team that no one seemed to want to watch play outdoors, but everyone flocked to see play indoors.  Thanks to Audible for sponsoring this week’s episode!