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We’ve Got History Archives

We’ve Got History: Major League Soccer’s First Goal

Back then they were the "Clash", those jerseys (!), and there was the 35-yard running shootout. Sometimes babies are ugly.

But it's our baby and we love it. 

Major League Soccer's first goal was scored 18 years ago today by none other than one of the infant league's marquee players, Eric Wynalda. The San Jose Clash hosted D.C. United (who would go on to win the first three MLS Cups) at Spartan Stadium. Wynalda's finish was voted the league's inaugural "Goal of the Year".

Watch highlights from ESPN's broadcast of MLS' first match. Wynalda's goal near the end. 

Tags: Major League Soccer, Video, We've Got History

The Big Pitcher - Open Season

Editor's Note: Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but It bends toward justice”. Sometimes we American soccer fans get wrapped up in the day-to-day, Monday morning quarterbacking (or centerbacking), knee-jerk reactions and miss out on the big picture. This weekly column will focus on picking out the larger themes and issues of Major League Soccer and the American game.

By Eric Betts / Senior Crystal Ball Correspondent

There’s still a certain, in some places significant, portion of the sports-going population in this country who will look at you funny when you try to explain the U.S. Open Cup to them.

WIth apologies to the diehards who have been there since Bethlehem Steel was winning tournaments, the vast majority of us have stumbled into the tournament in recent years as supporters or rational soccer-watching beings. This alone is enough to engender some skepticism in the part of the population that believes sporting loyalties are passed down like color-blindness or gingerism, through the bloodlines. They don’t believe in the kind of willful generational shift the USOC has seen that has boosted interest in the tournament in recent years. 

Because make no mistake, people should be watching. The tournament has a lot going for it. There’s its history for one – the 100th edition this year! – but to say that we should care about the 2013 running because of all that history is an argument only a baseball person could love, and ignores the ways the Cup combines some of the elements we love most in our sports, including:

Single elimination format: Single elimination makes everything from Pinewood Derbies to Mortal Kombat better. We love it so much we spend the entire month of March voting , and by the year 2024, presidential primaries will be held as a series of four online votes rather than on a state-by-state basis as each party winnows its bracket of 16 contenders down to a lone presidential candidate.

Underdogs:  Last time I wrote about the difficulties involved in projecting a player’s performance at different levels of competition. Here’s a chance to find out firsthand what happens when some young amateurs or career lower-leaguers go up against teams a couple of levels up on the pyramid, giving those of us who ordinarily couldn’t care less about a midweek May game between two Midwest teams the slightest bit of a rooting interest to serve as a foothold into the match.

Rivalries: With those underdogs comes a whole new ecosystem of local or regional grudge matches. Last Tuesday, PDL darlings FC Tucson dropped in-state rivals and USL-Pro debutantes Phoenix FC in the first USOC game either team has ever played. Last season’s fourth-round featured a much-anticipated grudge match between eventual-finalists Seattle and their bitter regional rivals...Cal FC?

But caring about the USOC is still a learned response. As sports fans in America, we’re trained not to give a crap about assorted cups and prizes. Why should our team waste energy and resources competing for a trophy when trophies are what everyone gets at the end of the T-ball season for participating?

Our sporting landscape is littered with adjunct and inessential competitions: all-star games in every sport, 34 out of 35 college football bowl games, the AFC South. Quick, name the last three winners of the Maui Invitational? Do they still have the Maui Invitational? How about the World Baseball Classic; is that still a thing?

Even those of us who care deeply about the world of soccer hold onto some of these attitudes. If you’re like me, then more than one of the soccer people you follow on Twitter thought they were being super-clever when they congratulated Chelsea for winning the European NIT on Wednesday. That’s a little unfair – no one knows who won the 2013 NITbut even UEFA is making noise about trying to find more efficient ways of making money than a second-class tournament.

For us, the currency of success is championships. The only trophies that matter are the larger, more famous ones that come with titles, the ones that Yankees teams the world over can shove straight up their you-know-where. I grew up a Braves fan, and the regret I feel looking at this picture outweighs the pride. (Yes, we were spoiled and Atlanta is on the whole a terrible baseball city. But still.)

Which is what makes the USOC interesting from a sporting perspective: By existing in that gap between top-level championship and utter insignificance, it pushes us to ask what makes a competition matter in the first place. Is it the stakes or the audience? Whose caring matters more, the players or the fans?

There are some fans who care deeply about their team’s fate in the USOC, and some for whom it would be a nifty bonus, the cherry on top of a successful season. I don’t question the first group’s passion, though I do believe that passion stems more than a little from passive overseas peer pressure; namely, that our model soccer nations all have high-stakes cup competitions that supporters care deeply about, so clearly since we are becoming a soccer nation ours should be high-stakes and deeply-cared-about as well.

Here’s the thing: The U.S. Open Cup doesn’t have to matter for you to appreciate its benefits. It’s a well-constructed and wonderfully fun sporting event on its own. The next time someone looks at you funny, that’s all you need to say.

Tags: Big Pitcher, We've Got History

We’ve Got History - “Dear U.S Open Cup: Happy 100th Birthday”

For many critics of the American game (among a plethora of other complaints) they cite a lack of history of the sport in the United States. But contrary to popular belief, the beautiful game was established here for much longer than most realize.

It goes past 1996 and the foundation of Major League Soccer. Past the 1960s and 70s of the New York Cosmos and the North American Soccer League. Even past Joe Gaetjens and the 1950 "Miracle on Grass". American soccer history is long and storied; nearly as old as it's European foundations.

We've got history. It's time to tell those tales.

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Say what you want about "SoccerReform", the American soccer (anti-collectivist) crusader... he's got a deep affinity for the U.S. Open Cup.

We're not here to get into a debate about the merits of the current setup of U.S. Soccer (hear that Ted!), but this video paying tribute to American soccer's longest-running, most under-appreciated cup competition is spot on.

For the last 100 years, the U.S Open Cup has featured some of American soccer's greatest players and teams, many of them lost to the dusty shelves of libraries or buried in microfiche drawers, and they deserve credit in helping sustain American soccer in its darkest days.

Tags: Video, We've Got History

We’ve Got History - Footage of the 1924 U.S Open Cup Final

For many critics of the American game (among a plethora of other complaints) they cite a lack of history of the sport in the United States. But contrary to popular belief, the beautiful game was established here for much longer than most realize.

It goes past 1996 and the foundation of Major League Soccer. Past the 1960s and 70s of the New York Cosmos and the North American Soccer League. Even past Joe Gaetjens and the 1950 "Miracle on Grass". American soccer history is long and storied; nearly as old as it's European foundations.

We've got history. It's time to tell those tales.

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The United States Soccer Federation celebrates it's 100 years of existence this year and beyond managing our men's, women's, and youth national teams one of their greatest (and most over-looked) achievements is the establishment of the U.S. Open Cup, the oldest, ongoing national soccer tournament in America. Originally called the National Challenge Cup, the holders of many of these Cup titles are recognized as some of the most famous clubs in American soccer history (even if few know their whole story). Teams like Bethleham Steel (five time winners), Maccabi Los Angeles (five time winners), Fall River Marksmen (four time winners) or more recently, Major League Soccer's Chicago Fire (four time winners), and Seattle Sounders (three, consecutive winners).

Unearthed and featured here is a brief clip of the Marksmen of Fall River against Vesper Buick in Saint Louis, Missouri. A more detailed description of the match follows below.

If you're interested in learning more about the shadows of American soccer history we highly recommend two works from the late David Wagerin, "The Ball is Round" and "Distant Corners".

From the description on YouTube:

Perhaps the oldest extant professional U.S. soccer footage--snippets from the 1924 U.S. Open Cup final, played on March 30, 1924. Fall River Marksmen, champions of the American Soccer League, traveled to St. Louis to face Vesper Buick, champions of the St. Louis Soccer League. Before a crowd of 14,000 at High School Field, the Marksmen completed their "double" with a 4-2 win. The match was tied 1:1 at the half, but Fall River prevailed on a brace by Fred Morley and goals from Johnny Reid and Harold Brittan. Harris (whose goal is captured on film) and McCarthy scored for the St. Louis team. Findlay Kerr notched the win in goal for Fall River; Labarge manned the pipes for the losers.

Tags: We've Got History

Happy Repeal Day

Newspaper headline from the day following repeal.

"What America needs now is a drink." - President Franklin Roosevelt

Words spoken 79 years ago and just as true today. On December 5th, 1933 the last state needed for a three-forths majority (Utah, ironically) voted to complete the Constitutional process to repeal the 18th Amendment that banned the manufacturing, selling, and transportation of liquor in the United States.

Today we can celebrate a victory for freedom. The return to America a tradition of brewing that would evolve into the wonderful craft beers we all enjoy today.

The return of beer meant the return of suds and sports. In 1933 that hardly meant beer and soccer, but in small pockets of America the sport established itself and survived the Depression-era implosion of the professional league. Among immigrant communities and on college campuses, and nobly in places like Saint Louis, the game grew. Today, like the return of beer we should also celebrate the return of soccer to America. Prohibition was called a "grand experiment" that failed, but American soccer is an experiment that is most certainly not to suffer the same fate.

Enjoy a beverage of choice to celebrate "Repeal Day"; whether it's one of America's big breweries that survived the dark days of Prohibition, a craft brew made possible by this historical day almost 80 years ago, or perhaps a spirit because it doesn't have to be manufactured in a bathtub or basement anymore.

Without repeal you'd also not have the Free Beer Movement.

And that's a world we're not willing to consider.

Tags: Beer, We've Got History

We’ve Got History - Pele’s Debut for the New York Cosmos

 

For many critics of the American game (among a plethora of other complaints) they cite a lack of history of the sport in the United States. But contrary to popular belief, the beautiful game was established here for much longer than most realize.

It goes past 1996 and the foundation of Major League Soccer. Past the 1960s and 70s of the New York Cosmos and the North American Soccer League. Even past Joe Gaetjens and the 1950 "Miracle on Grass". American soccer history is long and storied; nearly as old as it's European foundations.

We've got history. It's time to tell those tales.

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See the full match and hundreds more video from American soccer history at www.davebrett.com.

Thirty-seven years ago American soccer was forever changed when Brazilian legend made his debut for the New York Cosmos in an exhibition match against the Dallas Tornadoes.

In the match, Pele dazzled the crowd, assisting on the first goal and scoring the second in a 2-2 game at Downing Stadium on Randalls Island in New York.

The three-time World Cup champion was brought stateside to feature in what would becoming an even more star-studded line up as the years when on. Giorgio Chinaglia. Franz Beckenbauer, and Carlos Alberto just a few of the names that would grace the Cosmos squad in the next decade. 

Pele would play in 56 games between 1975 and 1977, scoring 31 times and brought record crowds to games in New York and around the United States.

Pele's inclusion into American soccer was a game changer for the struggling North American Soccer League. Teams burst their small budgets attempting to mirror the Cosmos' success and seven years after Pele the league folded. 

But for several years soccer blew up the U.S. sport scene. All was not lost as teams like the San Jose Earthquakes, Seattle Sounders, and Portland Timbers survived to return to today's Major League Soccer. The greater impact was the impression that Pele and the NASL left on a generation of new soccer fans. Hope that soccer could work in the United States with just a little smarter business plan.

Ten years after the NASL folded and nearly twenty after Pele's debut the U.S. hosted the 1994 World Cup and laid the foundation of top-flight, professional soccer (part of the deal in the U.S hosting the World Cup was to found Major League Soccer... it's premier two years later in 1996) in America.

Tags: We've Got History

We’ve Got History - Archie Stark

For many critics of the American game (among a plethora of other complaints) they cite a lack of history of the sport in the United States. But contrary to popular belief, the beautiful game was established here for much longer than most realize.

It goes past 1996 and the foundation of Major League Soccer. Past the 1960s and 70s of the New York Cosmos and the North American Soccer League. Even past Joe Gaetjens and the 1950 "Miracle on Grass". American soccer history is long and storied; nearly as old as it's European foundations.

We've got history. It's time to tell those tales.

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This week saw Barcelona forward Lionel Messi break a whole host of records with his hat-trick versus Malaga and then added four goals versys Espanyol in the Spanish La Liga.

His 50 goals in La Liga puts him nearly out of reach of Cristiano Ronaldo for the Golden Boot and the most ever in Spain. With strike number 68, Wednesday against Malaga, his third on the night in front of the home crowd at the Camp Nou, he passed up Germany legend Gerd Mueller's 67 goals in 1972-73 for most in a European season.

Three days later, not satisfied with a European record, Messi smashed the global record for most goals in a top-division league by banging home four goals and taking his total to 72 goals with Barcelona's final La Liga game and the Copa del Rey final against Bliboa still in hand.

With players like Pele (66 for Santos in 1958) and Mueller in the rear-view mirror for global scoring tallies who could have Messi blown by to set yet another record?

An American, of course.

Yes. Someone from the United States of America.

Buried in a host of articles celebrating Messi's accomplishment (many omitting any mention of it at all) was the name Archie Stark.

In the 1924-25 season of the America Soccer League (plus the inaugural Lewis Cup) Stark scored 70 goals for Bethlaham Steel, the East Coast soccer juggernaut owned by the company of the same name. Stark's 67 goals in that season (44 games) will probably never be broken in our modern-day Major League Soccer (34 games plus playoffs), but Messi's third of four on Saturday put the Argentine firmly at the top in the world. (One important thing to realize, though, is that Messi will have played 55 games this season including La Liga, Champions League, and Copa del Rey allowing him more games to break the record.)

Stark, born in Scotland and immigrating to the U.S. at 13, was one of American soccer's most prolific goal scorers perhaps tallying over 300 goals over his nearly 20 year career. He missed out in representing the U.S. National Team in the first World Cup due to sorting out personal finances (soccer was not a full-time occupation back then), but still managed to snag another American record by scoring four goals against Canada in 1925, a record matched, but not yet eclipsed by anyone in the red, white, and blue since. (Editor's Note: the other four-strike goalscorers for the Nats are: Buff Donelli in 1934, Joe-Max Moore in 1993 and Landon Donovan in 2003).

Stark scored five goals three times during that season, a time when most teams sported FIVE forwards (with three halfbacks and two fullbacks attempting to stem what we're sure a flood of goals).

The Kearny, New Jersey native (a town worthy of its own article in American soccer history) played for 10 years in the ASL knotching 260 goals for Steel and two other ASL teams (another American record still unbroken). Giorgio Chinglia came close with his 242 in eight NASL season, including 50 in 1980. His total goal scoring mark would have certainly been higher had his career not been briefly interrupted by service in the U.S. Army in World War I.

Stark's contribution to the early landscape of American soccer was invaluable:

The very foundations of the United States National Team were built on immigrants like Stark, which would make perfect sense. America, as many have said over the years, is a land of immigrants, one which celebrates it’s diversity, and many of these late 19th and early 20th Century immigrants brought with them a passion for football.

Many of the first clubs and associations in America were started by immigrants, their numbers supplemented over time by companies eager to promote themselves by starting “work’s teams” or sponsoring local sides - Bethlehem Steel being one prime example.

Over time the make-up changed so that many more American-born players, often second and third generation immigrants, took up soccer. Still, by the time of the first ever World Cup in 1930 six UK born players represented the US in Uruguay.  

Archie Stark's American (and worldwide) goal scoring record made him one of the era's greatest players just like Lionel Messi's season (and previous ones) will certainly make him one of the greatest players of all-time. If Stark had played professionally in his native Scotland or neighboring England this record would have certainly garnered more than one sentence mentioned in most publications (or not at all), but fortunately for American soccer fans, we can claim his as a part of our history and our domestic version of the world's game.

American soccer history needs to be dusted off every once in a while, but it as Messi's recent form has shown it is also more relevant than ever before.

Sources: Roger Allaway (Big Soccer), Kevin Alexander (In Bed With Maradona), the American Soccer History Archives, and U.S. Soccer.

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Tags: We've Got History