Logo accessed from Wikipedia
Fifty years ago this month, the first and only season (tournament) of the United Soccer Association (USA) came to an end. The USA was the first professional soccer league in North America that included Texas teams: Dallas Tornado and Houston Stars.
The league was one of two professional soccer leagues formed in the United States in 1967 on the heels of a positive reception to televised games from the 1966 FIFA World Cup held the previous summer in England. Because the USA was forced to start up earlier than intended because of the rival NPSL, the owners imported foreign teams to represent their cities, in our case Dundee United from Scotland for Dallas and Bangu from Brazil for Houston.
The finish of the first US professional soccer season with Texas teams
All 12 teams in the league played 12 rounds in the tournament. The two Division winners, Washington Whips and Los Angeles Wolves, played in the President’s Cup Championship game in Los Angeles on July 14th. Both teams flew across the country from Washington for this game, because the league had ordered a replay of a match played by the two sides in D.C. three weeks earlier on the weekend before the Championship. The reason for the replay was because league rules allowed 3 substitutes, one of which had to be a goalkeeper. Los Angeles had substituted 3 field players in violation of these rules during the original game. The Wolves lost the replay after the initial disputed match had been a 1-1 tie, but still won the Western Division.
The championship game was billed as The Greatest Soccer Final Played on American Soil in the book Summer of ’67 by Ian Thomson, a full-season account of the United Soccer Association. Arguably, he may be right as the LA Wolves won a pulsating 6-5 game and thus became the inaugural (and only) USA Champion.
Close to 18,000 fans turned up at the LA Memorial Coliseum to watch the Championship match, more than twice the season average for Wolves game in the tournament. Both sides didn’t much like each other and issues from the previous hotly contested games produced battles that started within minutes of the start of the game. The teams traded goals all evening and 6 lead changes later, the LA Wolves won the match in extra-time on a deflected own-goal off of Whips defender Ally Shewan. At least Shewan was able to have a sense of humor when interviewed after the game, saying in the book The Rebirth of Professional Soccer in America by Dennis J. Seese, “That’s my only claim to fame. I scored the golden goal. For the wrong side”. Shewan also can be given a pass because early in the game he had been knocked out, bloodied his nose and also broke two fingers on a collision with a Wolves forward. It is truly remarkable that Washington was able to come back so frequently because they had been reduced to 10 men 32 minutes in the game.
Houston Stars (Bangu-Brazil)
1967 Houston Stars team photo: Wikipedia
Houston Stars 1967-68 Home and Away Jerseys:
Sourced from Chris Creamer’s Sports Logos.Net
The Houston Stars were characterized as the most technically gifted team in the tournament. In The Rebirth of Professional Soccer in America, Sunderland and Vancouver’s John O’Hare was quoted as raving about Bangu and the Stars “their skill level was superb” and gave them a “proper football lesson” after Houston beat them 4-1 in Round 7. The Stars were led by Paulo Borges, who some at the time considered the second or third best player in the world after Pele and Portugal’s 1966 World Cup hero Eusebio. Houston also had two other Brazilian internationals on their roster, World Cup veteran centerback Mario Tito and Cabralzinho. This talent came with responsibilities for their country though and the Stars lost Paulo Borges to a series of matches Brazil played against Uruguay midway through the tournament. Borges missed 4 Houston matches (3 of which Houston lost). An argument certainly can be made that Houston did not make the Championship game because of his absence. The biggest blow to the Stars hopes came in Round 11 when, still missing Borges, the team shockingly lost 3-1 on a rain soaked and muddy field to Boston, who had not won a game to that point. Even the return of Borges was not enough to help the Stars the next week as a 1-0 loss at the Astrodome to Washington effectively ended its season.
Bangu 1966: From left to right-Paulo Borges, Cabralzinho, Norberto, Jair, Aladim
Sourced from NASL Jerseys.com-1467-992-Wikipedia
The major excitement in the Stars season came in Detroit during Round 6 of the tournament. The Stars had taken a 2-0 lead on the Detroit Cougars (Glentoran from Ireland). The clashing styles of a technical and crafty Brazilian side vs. a hard working Irish side finally came to a head in the 73rd minute after a high boot to the head from a Houston player led to a head butt from a Detroit player. Flying kicks, corner flags used as weapons, staff from both teams leaving the sidelines to join the ruckus and fans coming onto the field to chase Houston players around then ensued. It took 10 minutes for the police to restore order and the match was abandoned with the Stars credited with a 2-0 victory, despite vigorous protests from the Cougars.
There was one other amusing story that highlights the amateur level of organization in the USA that year. When Houston played Cleveland later in the tournament in the Astrodome, the game ended with no explanation with more than 5 minutes remaining on the stadium game clock. Apparently, the clock official, who didn’t know any better had been stopping the clock when the ball left the field of play. Houston ended up winning 2-1 that game despite vehement Cleveland protests.
The Stars ended the season in fourth place (4-4-4). The team also had the highest average attendance in the USA at 19,082. It was hard to sort out how much of the good attendance, however, was due to the soccer games and how much should be credited to the newness of the Astrodome at that time.
Final USA Western Division Season Standings: (original club-city) (2 points=win, 1 point=draw)
Los Angeles (Wolves-ENG) 5-2-5 15 points
San Francisco (Den Haag-NDL) 5-4-3 13 points
Chicago (Cagliari-ITL) 3-2-7 13 points
Houston (Bangu-BRZ) 4-4-4 12 points
Vancouver (Sunderland-ENG) 3-4-5 11 points
Dallas (Dundee Utd.-SCO) 3-6-3 9 points
1967 Houston Stars Leading Goal Scorers:
Paulo Borges-6, Aladim Luciano-4, Fernando Puglia-4
Houston Stars 1967-1968 Rosters and Statistics (NASL Jerseys)
For historical purposes, an argument can also be made that forward Paulo Borges is the best player ever to play soccer for a Texas professional soccer team (a case certainly can be made too for legendary England international Bobby Moore who played for the NASL’s San Antonio Thunder in 1976). He scored 105 goals for Bangu in the Brazilian league. At that time Brazilian players did not go to Europe at a young age like happens routinely today. Brazil was recognized as having one of the best, if not the best, soccer leagues in the world at that time. Pele, for example, who was in the prime of his career in 1967 never played in any European league. Borges ended up leaving Bangu a few years after this tournament, as did many of the Bangu stars, to chase more lucrative money at bigger Brazilian clubs. Bangu never became the club it was in the 1960’s again and now plays in the fourth division of Brazilian soccer.
In any event, after the two start-up leagues merged to form the North American Soccer League (NASL) in late 1967, the Stars joined the new league for a single season, finishing second in the Gulf Division of the Western Conference, but didn’t qualify for the playoffs. After that season, Houston was one of the many NASL franchises that folded and no professional soccer was played again in Houston until the Houston Hurricanes joined the NASL for the 1978 season.
Houston Stars 1968 Team Photo:
Sourced from NASL Jerseys.com-Wikipedia
Regardless of their short existence, the Houston Stars remain the genesis of the current professional soccer landscape in Houston, now represented by Major League Soccer’s Houston Dynamo and the National Women’s Soccer League’s Houston Dash.
Details on the formation of the league and the Houston Stars can be found in my first post in this series:
Further information on the formation of the Dallas Tornado and the first two professional Texas Derbies can be found in the second post in the series:
I am indebted to two excellent books that provided the majority of information presented in this post. I highly recommend anybody interested in further information seek these books out:
Summer of ’67 by Ian Thomson:
The Rebirth of Professional Soccer in America-Dennis J. Seese
Friday night MLS Soccer action will feature round two of the 2017 Texas Derby in Houston, when MLS sides Houston Dynamo and FC Dallas compete for the 2018 rights to hold El Capitán, a replica 18th century cannon.
50 years ago on June 3rd and June 10, 1967, the first professional iterations of the Texas Derby were played in Dallas and Houston between the United Soccer Association’s (USA) Houston Stars and Dallas Tornado.
The background on the short-lived league (tournament) start-up and the Houston Stars can be found in the first post in this series:
The Dallas Tornado:
1967 Dallas Tornado (Dundee United): Photo from http://www.nasljerseys.com/Rosters/Tornado_Rosters.htm and http://www.dundeeunitedfc.co.uk
Because the United Soccer Association started up with little preparation, the league brought in complete foreign teams to represent the franchises established in 12 North American cities. The Lamar Hunt owned Tornado were actually in reality Dundee United FC, one of three Scottish First Division clubs brought to America for the tournament that summer.
The Tornado had opened the USA tournament on the previous weekend with a 1-0 road victory against the Mustangs (Cagliari/Italy) in cold and rainy Chicago on May 28, 1967. The Chicago Tribune writer covering the match, James Fitzgerald, somewhat sardonically expressed his amusement about the game and the foreign nature of the league with this lede the next day (1):
A Dane scored the winning goal for a Scottish team representing Dallas which defeated an Italian team wearing Chicago’s colors last night in the United Professional Soccer league opener in front of 9,872 in Comiskey park.”
The Dane who scored the winning goal was 23-year old Finn Dossing off an assist from Tommy Millar from 5 yards out. The Mustangs were lacking many of their best players, as they had not even arrived in the U.S. yet, and were outshot by the Tornado 28-2. Dallas goalkeeper Sandy Davie did not have to make a save that day.
Finn Dossing (scored 3 goals in 1967 tournament and 76 goals for Dundee United)
Photo from http://www.nasljerseys.com/Players/D/Dossing.Finn.htm and http://www.dundeeunitedfc.co.uk
Dundee United had originally arrived in Dallas on May 23 to find a gathering of 200 media, fans and pipers from the Highland Park High School band. The team was initially quartered at a SMU fraternity, which was a source of much griping by the players, and practiced at a school field across the street. Dallas mayor Erik Jonsson issued a proclamation declaring the week of May 28-June 4 “Soccer Week in Dallas”. (2)
The first Texas Derby match: June 3-Cotton Bowl, Dallas
A crowd of 16,431 showed up to see the opening Derby match between the Tornado and Houston Stars (Bangu/Brazil). The mystery for spectators about this first Texas Derby was expressed in this game report from the Grand Prairie Daily News on June 6th.
According to accounts in the excellent book Summer of ’67 by Ian Thomson, the game struggled to gain any traction early as the players adjusted to the heat and the narrow Cotton Bowl field, which only allowed 60 yards of space vs. the 75 yards available today at FC Dallas’s Toyota Stadium in Frisco. The game report by Charles Clines in the Denton Record-Chronicle reported that the Tornado controlled the game early, but midway thorough the half the Stars came to life and forced Tornado goalkeeper Sandy Davie to make three saves, including two back-to-back saves on shots by Stars high-scoring forward Paulo Borges. (3)
The halftime break was originally scheduled to last 45 minutes, but was shortened to 10 after player complaints. According to game accounts, the Tornado controlled play in the second half and scored a goal that was disallowed by a dubious offside call. The Stars missed two golden opportunities to pick up the full three points near the end when Cabralzinho missed a shot at an open goal and hit the crossbar on a follow up after a poor clearance. The fans apparently got into the spirit of the game, chanting “Score, Dallas Score!” near the end of the scoreless match. How about that for a modern supporters group chant! It must have been an entertaining match as the Tornado outshot the Stars 24-18
One humorous event happened during game play in the second half according to Thomson in Summer of ’67. The Tornado had planned to have a parachutist deliver the ball to center circle for the start of the second half. Apparently nobody told the pilot that game had restarted, so midway through second half, according to the Tornado’s Donald Mackay, “All of the sudden a gentleman in a parachute landed in the center of the park with the ball to kick off the second half.” (4)
Imagine how often this mix-up would have aired on SportsCenter or shared via social media if it had happened today.
The match box score from the Denton Record-Chronicle game report:
The Rematch-June 10, 1967-The Astrodome, Houston
The Houston Stars won their first game of the ASA tournament in the Texas Derby rematch before 20,375 in the Astrodome. Goals were scored by Borges and Peixinho in the first half to secure the victory. The game story from AP has the details below, but in Summer of ’67, author Ian Thomson focused most of his match description on the challenges Dundee United faced playing indoors and on artificial turf for the first time.
The Astrodome “soccer” field configuration presented complications for both teams, but especially the visitors. The field surface, set up for baseball a few days later, was a combination of dirt and grass, complete with holes where the bases had been removed. Also in Summer of ’67, Tornado player Mogens Berg attributed part of the issues to not having the appropriate shoes, stating that the Tornado players had not been informed about what type of field was used in the Astrodome before the match: “We didn’t have the right shoes for playing on that.” Because it was there, of course, once the Tornados entered the field they had to organize a competition to see if anybody could hit the roof with a soccer ball, which they quickly determined was impossible.
To add insult to injury, Dallas had played a midweek game in Vancouver three days previously and then traveled by bus to Houston. Before the players expressed their dissatisfaction, the Tornado management had planned to bus down the day of the game and return to the dorms at SMU immediately after the game ended. The team ended up coming in a day early, but still rode the bus back to Dallas Saturday night, arriving at 4:15 a.m. the next morning. (5)
8:00 p.m. on Friday evening in Houston the inter-state fun continues.
I will publish a story on Texas Soccer Journal in July to discuss the final results of the Tornado and Stars in this tournament played 50 years ago this summer. I also highly recommend Summer of ’67-Flower Power, Race Riots, Vietnam and the Greatest Soccer Final Played on American Soccer by Ian Thomson if you would like to learn more about the single season of the defunct United Soccer Association.
(2) Summer of ’67-Ian Thomson-pages 71-75
(3) Denton Record-Chronicle, June 4, 1967 –Tornado Fails to Sweep Across Houston Goal
(4) Summer of ’67-page 76
(5) Summer of ’67-pages 118-119
A little more than 50 years ago the Houston Stars introduced a professional soccer league to Houston for the first time. Domestic interest in the 1966 England World Cup, won by the home country, convinced a number of owners of teams in other U.S. professional sports that soccer could make money, or in any event help them fill open dates in the stadiums they owned.
One of these owners was Judge Roy Hofheinz who owned baseball’s Houston Astros and co-owned The Astrodome stadium, the self proclaimed “8th Wonder of the World”. In true American fashion, two groups of individuals had different ideas on how to start a new league. So despite the fact that no successful soccer league had ever been sustained in the United States, separate leagues started play in 1967. Details on the start of the other league founded in 1967, the National Professional Soccer League (NPSL), can be found in this story by Michael Lewis in the Guardian:
In May of 1967 the Stars, and the Lamar Hunt owned Dallas Tornado, began play in the other league (the one officially sanctioned by US Soccer) the United Soccer Association (USA). The original intent was for the USA to begin play a year later in 1968. The plans needed adjustment, however, because the NPSL decided to start up (with a national TV contract no less) as soon as possible after the completion of the 1966 World Cup to capitalize on interest generated by the tournament. Assembling teams on short-notice would be a real challenge, especially given the shallow pool of American soccer talent at that time, so the USA decided instead to import complete teams from Europe and South America and position them as franchises in various cities in North America.
The USA Houston Stars were actually Brazilian side Bangu Atletico Clube from the western zone of Rio de Janeiro. It is hard to believe how good Bangu was at that time since they now play in the fourth division of Brazilian soccer-Campeonato Brasileiro-Serie D. At that time they were one of the stronger teams in the highly competitive Rio soccer landscape and had won the State Championship in 1966 when they defeated Brazilian soccer power Flamengo 3-0 in front of 120,000 fans at the Maracana Stadium.
Bangu 1966 State Championship squad
Photo from http://www.nasljerseys.com/default.htm and http://www.diarioweb.com.br/
Prior to the start-up of the league, friendly matches were played by a variety of international clubs throughout North America. On April 19, 1967 the world’s first “indoor” outdoor soccer match was played at the Astrodome. Real Madrid of Spain beat West Ham United of England 3-2 that evening in front of 33,351 fans.
The first official game of the Stars’ USA season (actually a tournament where each team would play 16 games and then a Championship game) was played in the Astrodome on Saturday May 27, 1967 in front of 34,965 spectators….a remarkable number given the challenges the current Houston Dynamo have in getting people to show up for games. The opponent for the opener was the Los Angeles Wolves (represented by England’s Wolverhampton Wolves) whose US franchise was owned by then LA Lakers and Kings owner Jack Kent Cooke.
According to the match accounts in the excellent book Summer of ’67 by U.S. based British journalist Ian Thomson (@i_thomson), the final score was 1-1. The Stars goal was scored by Paulo Borges, a young forward who ended up scoring 6 goals in 8 games in 1967 for the Stars and 105 total goals for Bangu. Unfortunately, the Stars goalkeeper, Ubirajara Goncalves Motta suffered an 88th minute injury and needed to leave the match. His replacement was also injured on the game-tying goal by the Wolves David Woodfield just before time and never played again in the league.
One amusing anecdote from the game, taken from the Summer of ’67 book, involved the Wolves David Burnside. Instead of returning to the locker room at halftime, Burnside stayed on the field and put on a juggling exhibition at the center circle for the spectators. Who said that David Beckham was the first soccer ambassador from the UK in the United States! The teams returned to the field to sounds of the standing ovation received by Burnside at the completion of this individual display.
Photo from http://www.nasljerseys.com/default.htm and kigol.com.br
1967 Houston Stars team photo (Wikipedia)
Houston Stars Logo on top of page (Wikipedia)
So how did the ASA 1967 tournament end? I will continue to follow the progress of the Stars (and Tornado) 1967 seasons on this blog over the next couple of months.
If you can’t wait (haha) or are interested in learning more about the United Soccer Association and it’s single season read Summer of ’67 by Ian Thomson: