These Days in Soccer History

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Dan Creel, for those that don’t know, came to our staff several months ago and instantly threw himself into writing about soccer history. There was a gap in our staff focusing on that and he filled it, expertly. Today’s Kicking Back is a new idea Dan came up with, what if he picked some random days in the past and looked at the matches, then gave some context and feedback. The resulting piece is a great snapshot of American soccer in different eras and regions. We think it’s well worth your time. - Dan V


9 November 1918

At Bethlehem Steel Field, Bethlehem Steel F.C. defeated New York Shipbuilding Corp. F.C. three goals to nil in the first round of the 1918-19 National Challenge Cup. Originally to be played during October, the game was delayed because of quarantines put in place due to the second wave of the deadly 1918 influenza pandemic.

Based in Camden, New Jersey, New York Ship F.C. was one of a number of soccer clubs that was created in the U.S. by shipbuilding companies during wartime. The club played in the South New Jersey league during their brief existence and folded soon after the end of the war.

On the other hand, Bethlehem Steel was probably the greatest team of this period in U.S. soccer. The team was the the current national champions having won the 1917-18 National Challenge Cup, and had won three of four losing the other in the final. The club has also won four of the previous five American Cups.

But the 1918-19 season may have been the best of all. Their roster was littered with a veritable who’s who of players, including: full backs Jock Ferguson and Sam Fletcher; inside forward Fred Pepper; outside forward Tommy Fleming; and center forward Harry Ratican.

In April, the club went on to win the 1919 National Challenge Cup by defeating Paterson F.C. 2-0 in the final, and then the 1919 American Cup a week later over the same opponent and by the same score. Bethlehem Steel then took the “treble” in mid-May by clinching the National Association Football League professional championship.

13 May 1934

The end of the initial season of the reorganized American Soccer League’s Metropolitan Division was only a couple of weeks away. The league was due to finish at the end of May only the top two clubs in running for the championship. At the end of April, the Irish-Americans of Kearny, New Jersey were well clear of second place New York Americans. But the New Yorkers had a number of games in hand while the Irish had basically finished their league season.

With the race all but over, the rest of the league played their final league games that day and the following Sundays of May. The Irish-Americans were in the middle of making a run at the New Jersey State Cup. They had won their semifinal the previous Sunday and the final against Caledonian F.C. of Paterson was scheduled for the following Sunday. During the break, they scheduled an exhibition on May 13 against the Scranton Miners at the latter’s home pitch.

The New York Americans needed to piece together a string of wins during May to win take the league championship. That day they defeated bottom-dwellers the German-Americans of Philadelphia 3-2. The next Sunday they defeated Brooklyn Hispano 3-0 at Commercial Field in Brooklyn while, on the same day, the Irish-Americans won the New Jersey State Cup by blanking the Caledonians 2-0. The New Yorkers’ victory meant that a final match on May 27 at home at Starlight Park against the Irish would decide the league. But the New York Americans’ momentum didn’t last and the Irish ultimately took the championship.

13 February 1987

The Minnesota Strikers defeated the San Diego Sockers 3-2 in the middle of the 1987-88 Major Indoor Soccer League season. The teams were among a handful of clubs that had survived the collapse of the North American Soccer League in 1985 by moving to the indoor game. Indoor soccer was the most popular form of the game in the U.S. at this transitional time of the sport’s history.

Both clubs ended up winning their respective divisions, but while the Strikers lost in the divisional finals, the Sockers won the championship by defeating the Cleveland Force 4 games to none in the best-of-seven game series. The Sockers were the most dominant indoor team of the eighties and were in the middle of a staggering run of 10 championships in 11 seasons.

5 March 2008

In their first game of group play in the Algarve Cup, the U.S. Women’s National Team defeated China 4-0 at Municipal Stadium in Albufeira, Portugal. The USWNT had won four of the past five invitational tournaments and had no trouble at that year’s group stage. Two days later they blanked Italy 2-0 then, on March 10, shut out Norway 4-0.

The final on March 12 was not as easy. Their opponent, Denmark, had also topped their group without conceding a goal. But, unlike the high-scoring Americans, the Danes had ground out three 1-0 victories against Germany, Denmark and Finland. The final was also a low-scoring affair with Abby Wambach breaking the 1-1 deadlock with a goal in the 50th minute. The U.S. held on to the 2-1 lead to take home their sixth Algarve Cup.

- Dan Creel

Dan Vaughn