1979-80 MISL Season
1985-86 | 1986-87 | 1987-88 | 1988-89 | 1989-90 | 1990-91 | 1991-92
The MISL opened its second season playing a 32 game schedule with 10 teams in two divisions. Although Cincinnati had folded, the league added Buffalo, Hartford, Wichita, Detroit and St. Louis to its lineup. While there were no rule changes, the MISL now required 12 of each side’s 16-man roster to be "American," although that designation still included Canadians and resident aliens. Over 18,000 fans attended the St. Louis club’s opener, and attendance was up all around the league, which finished with an average of 6,102 per game. Ironically, the league began to draw more attention for its theatrics--introductions of players through clouds of dry ice, eight-foot tall mascots, and music accompanying the action on the field, to name a few--than for the quality of the play on the field, which was vastly improved. While the MISL took much heat over the off-field theatrics, these tactics would later be adopted by teams in "major" sports like hockey and basketball, and with great success. The other notable off-field activity involved the MISL’s contract with a cable television network, airing selected games to over 5 million viewers in 47 states.
On the field, the defending champion New York Arrows picked up where it left off, going unbeaten at home en route to a 27-5 record and easy capture of the Atlantic Division title. The Pittsburgh Spirit, after starting 5-10, sacked its coach and tabbed Len Bilous, who had coached Cincinnati the year before, as his replacement. Bilous promptly led his team on a record 13-game winning streak before dropping the last four games to finish behind New York. In the Central Division, Houston--led by Kai Haaskivi, Ian Anderson, and the goalkeeping tandem of Sepp Gantenhammer and Mick Poole--compiled a 20-12 mark to finish four games ahead of the runner-up Wichita Wings. St. Louis, using a squad of local pros like Steve Pecher, Dan Counce and ex-Atom Tom Galati, captured the imagination of the city’s fans, drawing over 13,000 a game despite finishing with a lackluster 12-20 record. While St. Louis was providing a model for other clubs to follow, Philadelphia essentially abandoned the formula that had made it so successful at the gate one year earlier. An agreement with the NASL’s Philadelphia Fury, while providing the Fever with ex-Atoms Bob Rigby and Bobby Smith, also loaded the club with Yugoslavians at the expense of local players. As a result, the bloom wore off the 8,000 plus crowds at the Spectrum, never to return.
The playoffs found the second and third place finishers in each division facing each other in the semifinals, with Wichita and Pittsburgh edging their opponents to meet Houston and New York, respectively, in the division finals. While Houston squeaked by the Wings to advance to the championship, New York easily swept Pittsburgh. In the championship, the Arrows’ Steve Zungul scored three goals--at the time, he had netted hat tricks in each of the 6 playoff matches he had played over the two seasons--to enable New York to repeat as champions before 8,469 at the Nassau Coliseum in Long Island, New York. With the championship now determined in a one-game final, the pressure was on New York to play a mistake-free game against the tenacious Houston club. Houston struck first, on a goal by defender Ian Anderson, but a power-play goal by Zungul, and another goal off a beautiful run by Damir Sutevski gave the defending champs the lead. The Arrows increased their lead to 4-1 on goals by Zungul and Branko Segota, but Houston battled back: goals by John Stemlau, Gerry Morielli and Dale Russell brought the club to within one, the difference being Renaldo Cila’s goal 1:01 into the third quarter. However, Zungul’s third goal, followed by a Julie Vee tally, put New York ahead for good. Zungul was awarded the playoff MVP award for his heroics, which complimented his season MVP award for his astounding 90 goals in 32 matches. In a scene that would be repeated several times over the history of the MISL, Zungul and linemate Branko Segota were named first team all-stars. Detroit’s Pat Ercoli was the only American to crack the top scorers’ list, although natives Alan Mayer (second team All-Star with Pittsburgh), Keith Van Eron (Wichita), Shep Messing (first team All-Star), and Bob Rigby (Philadelphia) were among the league’s top netminders. Yankee defenders Dave D’Errico (New York) and Steve Pecher (St. Louis) earned second team All-Star berths.
Having regretted its decision to sit back and watch the MISL during its first season, the North American Soccer League announced that a full indoor league would be played by its clubs in the winter of 1979-80. NASL Commissioner Phil Woosnam offered, "We pioneered indoor soccer in this country--it’s a natural compliment to the outdoor version," as a justification for the foray. However, only 10 of the NASL’s 24 clubs participated, with marquee franchises New York, Washington and Vancouver taking a pass. Also, as opposed to the MISL, the older league only required that five of each team’s 14-man roster be North American. The initial NASL indoor season saw the 10 clubs divided into two divisions and playing a 12 game schedule under, ironically, MISL rules. As with the MISL, figures at the gate were encouraging. The Memphis Rogues, who averaged a paltry 7,137 fans per game outdoors in 1979, routinely packed its arena with crowds of 8,300 or more for its indoor matches. Similarly, Atlanta also drew more indoors than out. Minnesota drew crowds of over 10,000 for its matches, while Tampa Bay continued to sell out its tiny arena. Other clubs did not draw as well, though, and the California teams fared dismally. Ft. Lauderdale could only manage about 2,300 per game, and the Detroit Express were regularly outdrawn by its cross-town rival, the MISL’s Lightning. All told, the league averaged 4,869 per game throughout its 60 matches.
The season saw the Atlanta Chiefs, on the strength of leading scorer David Byrne’s play and the acrobatic goalkeeping of 20-year old Victor Nogueira, take the Eastern Division title over Tampa Bay and Detroit, while Memphis edged Minnesota and Tulsa for the Western Division crown. The preliminary round of the playoffs saw Tampa Bay crush Detroit, and Minnesota edge Tulsa. Tampa Bay then swept Atlanta to advance to the finals, where it faced Memphis for the title. Memphis edged the Rowdies in the first game, but Tampa Bay rallied to take the second game and force a "mini-game" playoff. This 15 minute "game," immediately following the second match, found Peter Anderson drive a Wes McLeod rebound past Rogues’ keeper John Houska to give the Rowdies a 1-0 win and the title, in spite of being outshot in the mini-game, 28-9.
Even with these two circuits in session, another peep was heard in the soccer wilderness when the American Soccer League announced that it, too, would enter the indoor wars. While originally planning on playing a full schedule in the winter of 1979-80, the league later postponed these plans to the next year. Ultimately, like so many of the ASL’s grand schemes outdoors, this plan never came to fruition, and the MISL and NASL would remain the only indoor combatants in what was shaping up as a rather nasty battle.
New York Arrows
Houston Summit Soccer
St. Louis Steamer
Wichita defeated Detroit 6-5
Pittsburgh defeated Buffalo 5-3
New York defeated Pittsburgh 5-3, 11-3
Houston defeated Wichita 5-4 (OT), 4-3
New York defeated Houston 7-4
Before the season, Buffalo, Hartford, Wichita, Detroit and St. Louis were added.
After the season, Pittsburgh suspended operations for one year.
All-Star Game: Central Division defeated Atlantic Division 9-4. (At St. Louis, att: 16,892. MVP = Pat Ercoli) Leading Scorers GP G A TP Steve Zungul, New York 32 90 46 136 Fred Grgurev, New York 31 64 40 104 Kai Haaskivi, Houston 27 51 36 87 Branko Segota, New York 31 55 31 86 Pat Ercoli, Detroit 32 44 24 68 Lubo Petrovic, Buffalo 31 46 21 67 Graham Pyle, Pittsburgh 31 37 28 65 Julie Veee, New York 26 29 35 64 Damir Sulevski, New York 30 32 26 58 Jim Ryan, Wichita 29 26 29 55 Steve Buttle, Pittsburgh 28 35 17 52 Clyde Best, Cleveland 30 33 16 49 John Stremlau, Houston 32 23 25 48 Dave MacWilliams, Philadelphia 30 25 23 48 Dale Russell, New York 32 26 19 47 Manny Cuenca, St. Louis 31 27 20 47 LEADING GOALKEEPERS (Min. 900 minutes to qualify) GP Min. Shts Svs GA W-L GAA Sepp Gantenhammer, Houston 14 801 555 209 59 8-5 4.42 Alan Mayer, Pittsburgh 17 952 758 310 77 13-4 4.85 Cliff Brown, Cleveland 28 1130 1002 377 95 8-10 5.04 Keith van Eron, Wichita 20 1050 805 338 89 10-8 5.09 Paul Turin, St. Louis 18 932 684 245 80 6-10 5.15 Shep Messing, New York 32 1754 1393 573 151 15-5 5.17 Mick Poole, Houston 20 1124 906 341 99 12-7 5.29 Scott Manning, Buffalo 25 1009 762 306 98 8-6 5.82 Chris Turner, Detroit 31 1716 1265 496 175 15-1 6.12 Jim May, Buffalo 21 844 662 281 88 8-8 6.25 Most Valuable Player: Steve Zungul, New York Arrows Coach of the Year: (Tie) Len Bilous, Pittsburgh Spirit, Pat McBride, St. Louis Steamers MISL Scoring Champion: Steve Zungul, New York Arrows MISL Pass Master (most Assists): Steve Zungul, New York Arrows Goalkeeper of the Year: Sepp Gantenhammer, Houston Summit Soccer Rookie of the Year: Jim Sinclair, Buffalo Stallions Championship Series Player of the Year: Steve Zungul, New York Arrows All-MISL team: G - Shep Messing, New York Arrows D - Kai Haaskivi, Houston Summit Soccer D - Branko Segota, New York Arrows M - Steve Zungul, New York Arrows F - Ian Anderson, Buffalo Stallions F - Flemming Lund, Detroit Lightning
1985-86 | 1986-87 | 1987-88 | 1988-89 | 1989-90 | 1990-91 | 1991-92