American soccer writing, history & data.
In July of 1994, the Atlanta Magic club was granted a franchise in the American Professional Soccer League to begin play in 1995. Sam Chase was the president of the Magic which held a franchise in the USISL. The club expected to maintain a USISL team as a farm club for the APSL squad.
In August, Mark Dillon resigned as head coach of the Orlando Lions of the USISL to become the general manager of the Atlanta Magic. Caleb Suri, Magic veteran, was the first signee of the APSL squad and, on October 10, former USMNT player Bruce Murray was announced as the second signing. Lothar Osiander was hired on January 5, 1995 to coach the Atlanta APSL team which had been named the Atlanta Ruckus.
In late 1994, the USSF assigned American Professional Soccer League Division II professional status because MLS had been assigned Division I status and USSF rules only allowed one first division league. The APSL did not accept the designation as it wanted to compete with Major League Soccer for the best U.S. players. During the January meetings, the ASPL accepted application for a franchise in New York. The New York Centaurs would play at Downing Stadium on Randall's Island.
The Fort Lauderdale Strikers and Los Angeles Salsa withdrew from the league likely because the ASPL failed to gain Division I status. The league also re-branded itself simply as the A-League. After complaints from the A-League the USSF revised their rules allowing for more than one Division I league.
Atlanta Ruckus owner Sam Chase failed to post at $100,000 letter of credit with the APSL by a March 1 deadline. Chase missed filing a letter of credit by the original January 6 deadline where he offered stocks instead. After two weeks of negotiations, the A-League revoked Chase's APSL franchise rights and released all the big-name players from their contracts. The league assumed most day-to-day operations of the Ruckus for the 1995 season and ownership was transferred to a consortium with Johnny Imerman as franchise owner. The team then re-signed 17 players including Bruce Murray, Mike Huwiler and Erik Imler along with coach Lothar Osiander. John Doyle agreed to an 18-month contract in contrast to his original four-year contract.
In April, Johnny Imerman purchased the rights to the Atlanta Magic franchise in the USISL. The team was to be used as a farm club for the Ruckus and re-classified as an amateur team with the USISL in order to allow area high school and college starts to play. In May the Magic withdrew from the USISL after Imerman decided that the team wasn't ready for regular-season play.
The Toronto Rockets folded on May 2, just three days before the start of the 1995 season due to lack of finding new financing. Construction businessman Tony Fontana held complete ownership. He wanted to retain title as president and keep control of the club but put up only $100,000 to $150,000 toward 1995 expense. Costs for a full season in the A-League were $500,000 to $1 million and Fontana did not put up the required letter of credit. Fontana's four new partners who joined two months prior did not want him to remain in control if he was not contributing a majority of the funds. The league said that if a partnership could not be formed then Fontana could not go ahead with the Rockets. The A-League quickly revised its schedule to deal with the loss of the Toronto franchise.
At the end of the 24-game schedule the Montreal Impact and Seattle Sounders both sat top of the table with 51 points each. The Impact played the fourth-place Ruckus in the semifinals. Atlanta pulled an upset winning two of three games to make it to the finals. Seattle swept the Vancouver 86ers in the other semifinal. On October 1, the Ruckus pulled another upset beating the Sounders in shootout before 4312 at Adams Stadium. The finals went to Seattle for the remaining two games. On October 8, Seattle won the first 3-0 at Memorial Stadium before 4626.
The third and final match would be held October 12 at the same stadium. Atlanta got on the board quickly when Staale Soebye scored in the third minute. It looked like that was going to be enough for the expansion team to win the A-League title but Jason Farrell scored for Seattle in the 82nd minute. The match ended tied 1-1 and went to a shootout. The 5115 in attendance saw the Sounders take the shootout three goals to one and win the 1995 A-League championship.
The four U.S. teams also took part in the U.S. Open Cup entering in the Round of 16. Atlanta Ruckus beat the Tampa Bay Cyclones of the USISL Pro League 4-2 on June 14 but were upset in the quarterfinals by the Richmond Kickers of the USISL Premier League 2-1 on July 12. It was a similar story for the Colorado Foxes who beat Flamengo of Salt Lake City 6-1 but lost to the El Paso Patriots of the USISL Pro League 2-0. And, the New York Centaurs suffered the same fate. The Centaurs beat the USISL Pro League Connecticut Wolves 3-0 but lost 1-0 to the Chicago Stingers, another USISL Pro League team. Seattle fared a bit better beating the USISL Pro League Everett BigFoot 9-2 in the Round of 16 and Chico Rooks 5-0 in the quarterfinals. But, on July 30, the Sounders were beaten by the El Paso Patriots 1-0 in the semifinals.
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