Month: May 2014

State of Arena Soccer – Part 1 – 2013-2014 MISL Season

It was recently reported that the USL operated Major Indoor Soccer League is no more, due to 6 of the 7 teams departing to join the rival Professional Arena Soccer League, with the remaining league changing it’s name to Major Arena Soccer League, or MASL. With that, came the information that the 2014-2015 season will be contested by 24 teams, 6 from MISL, 16 returning PASL teams, one revived team in the Tacoma Stars, and one expansion club, the Brownsville Barracudas. Four PASL teams and one MISL team are presumed to have folded.

To set the stage for the first season of unified arena soccer, I’ll be documenting the history of the uniquely North American spin on the beautiful game, and the revolving door of leagues and teams. Today, here’s a brief summary of the 2013-2014 MISL season.

For older leagues, numbers will be used to describe which generation used that particular name. MISL1 will refer to the original, while MISL will refer to the current league.


 

Seven teams contested the season, featuring two new clubs. Two teams failed to return.

FOLDED:

The Chicago Soul had a short history, playing only one season. They made the playoffs, but their early exit combined with only 1,565 average attendance and other financial woes meant that the Chicago market would be without MISL soccer for the 2013-2014 season.

The Wichita Wings were an attempted rebirth of the original Wings who played 22 years before folding in 2001. This team fared worse, managing only two seasons before declining attendance and a lack of playoff soccerm among other things, led to a swift demise.

RETURNING:

The Baltimore Blast were founded in 1992 as the Baltimore Spirit. They were a constant presence in the old NPSL2, and after joining the MISL2 in 2001 won 4 championships in 6 years. They entered the season as reigning champions, having slaughtered the Missouri Comets 21-12 and 8-6 in the two game championship series. Coach Danny Kelly returned for yet another year. The team had an insane regular season, winning 17 of 20 games, scoring 309 points and allowing only 101, good for 1st overall and playoffs.

The Milwaukee Wave are, and have been, the oldest continuously operating pro soccer team in North America, having been founded in 1984. Across their long history spreading several leagues, they’ve managed to win 6 championships, having lost another 4 in the finals. Head coach Keith Tozer returned for his 22nd consecutive season at the reigns, leading the Wave to an impressive 16-4 record, good for 2nd overall and playoffs thanks to 324 points for, 203 against.

The Missouri Comets, founded in 2010, are named for the former Kansas City Comets of MISL1 fame. Coach Kim Røntved was fired to start the season after losing in the championship series, with Vlatko Andonovski hired as replacement. Missouri finished 14-6, in 3rd place with a league leading 329 points for, and 217 against.

The Rochester Lancers, also founded in 2010, hired Josh Rife as coach, after previous coach Jim Hesch led the team to a 10-16 record. Rife suffered an even worse first season, as the team went 6 and 14, with 216 points for and 280 against. They finished 5th, just out of the playoffs.

The Syracuse Silver Knights, founded in 2011, are the youngest of the returning teams. They kept original coach Tommy Tanner, who took them to their first playoff berth with a 12-8 record. That’s good for 4th overall, the final playoff berth.

NEW TEAMS:

The Pennsylvania Roar brought the indoor game to the town of Reading, but coach Eric Puls and his new team only managed to win 1 game. They only scored 105 points, while allowing a league high 375, and cemented their place at the bottom of the table early.

Fellow expansion side St. Louis Ambush didn’t fare much better, only winning 4 games. Player Odaine Sinclair did win rookie of the year, but with 186 points for and 348 against, could only manage 6th, just above the Roar.


 

Attendance wise, Rochester were top, despite no playoffs, with an average of 7,347.

Almost-undefeated Baltimore were second with 6,123 average.

St. Louis fans managed to look past their team’s on the field woes to the tune of 5,636 on average.

Milwaukee dipped slightly from the previous year, but still posted a respectable 4,906.

Missouri followed closely with another slight drop, managing 4,180.

Syracuse, despite their success on the field, could only average 2,869.

But poor Roar. Not only did they only win one game, but they had barely half of Syracuse’s attendance, with a dismal average of only 1,549.4 unanswered in the 2nd quarter


 

The playoffs began with Baltimore leveling Syracuse 20 to 7, and the Comets flattening the Wave 20 to 6.

Fortunes changed for the second game in both series, with Milwaukee winning 12 to 9 over Missouri, and Baltimore losing 6 to 9 against the Silver Knights.

That meant a 15 minute mini-game in both semifinal brackets.

In the first tie breaker, Missouri won 6 to 2, advancing over the Wave.

The second saw Baltimore win 4 to 3 despite a late game 3 point goal for Syracuse.

This meant Baltimore would face Missouri in the championship series.

Game 1 saw the Comets start and finish strong, scoring 6 unanswered points in the 3rd quarter.

Baltimore responded at home with a dominant 19 to 4 win, with 11 unanswered in the first half. This forced another 15 minute tiebreaker, with Missouri winning both the minigame and the championship 6 to 4, off a 14th minute goal.

It was Missouri’s first championship in the current team’s four year history.


 

State of Arena Soccer – Part 0 – Playing Indoors

It was recently reported that the USL operated Major Indoor Soccer League is no more, due to 6 of the 7 teams departing to join the rival Professional Arena Soccer League, with the remaining league changing it’s name to Major Arena Soccer League, or MASL. With that, came the information that the 2014-2015 season will be contested by 24 teams, 6 from MISL, 16 returning PASL teams, one revived team in the Tacoma Stars, and one expansion club, the Brownsville Barracudas. Four PASL teams and one MISL team are presumed to have folded.

To set the stage for the first season of unified arena soccer, I’ll be documenting the history of the uniquely North American spin on the beautiful game, and the revolving door of leagues and teams, but first, a brief summary of what arena soccer really is.


 

It’s basically soccer mixed with ice hockey.

Start off with a hockey rink, boards and everything. Take some synthetic turf, cover the ice, and remove the walls behind hockey’s goal line. Put a goal in each hole in the wall, flush with the boards. Goals are 14 feet by 8 feet and at least 5 feet deep, smaller than outdoors. The field is divided much like hockey, and the hockey offsides rule is used. There’s also a 3 line violation rule, where a defending player kicks the ball past both yellow lines and the white line. It gives possession to the other team, and can result in a 2 minute penalty.

 

Here’s a rough idea of what the field looks like, courtesy of the PASL rulebook.

Image

Teams consist of five position players plus a goalkeeper. Rules are pretty similar, with goal kicks and corner kicks and penalty kicks all working, but teams are allowed unlimited substitutions, much like hockey, and the same benches are used. Substitutions can happen at any time, and frequently occur during play.

The boards are all in bounds, and playing the ball off them is part of basic strategy.

Arena soccer preserves the hockey penalty box, using soccer style cards to issue penalty time.

A blue card means two minutes in the box, for specific minor fouls. Fouled team plays on a two minute 5-on-4 power play.

A yellow card means five minutes in the box for more severe offenses, but no power play.

A red card means the offending player is gone, just like soccer, with blue card style 2 minute power play following. A designated player occupies the box.

Games consist of four 15 minute quarters. There’s no ties; teams play 15 minute sudden death overtime followed by a 3 man shootout if necessary.

In the MISL, goals are worth two points, with those scored from behind a special three-point arc worth three, much like basketball.

In the PASL, all goals are one point, and there’s no 3 point arc.

For lower leagues, numbers will be used to describe which generation used that particular name. MISL1 will refer to the original, while MISL will refer to the current league.


 

Small Fish Big Pond 3 – One Little Victory

We last ended in 1986, with the Benna Boys bowing out of Central American and Caribbean Games qualifying after two matches.

1987 brought with it a brief foray into Olympic qualifying, with a pair of draws against the Dominican Republic. Despite neither side winning, the away goals rule took effect, with the Dominican Republic scoring their only goal during the leg hosted in Antigua. An unfortunately early exit from the tournament, and with that, the end of international competition for Antigua in 1987.

However, 1988 was set to be the busiest year yet for the Benna Boys.

March of 1988 brought with it another round of CFU Championship qualifying.

For the home and away series, Antigua would be facing their most recent victims, Dominica, who, despite taking an early lead with an 18th minute goal from Robert Hippolyte, wound up level at half time thanks to a late goal from Steve Hurst, and had their fate sealed with yet another goal at the increasingly legendary feet of Everton Gonsalves in the second half. That win back in 1985 put Antigua through to the next round of qualification, but eventually lost 1-0 to Guadeloupe.

After three years, Dominica was out for revenge, and Antigua was hoping to go two-for-two.

The first match, played away in Dominica, was a relatively tame affair, with the hosts managing to hold the visiting Antiguans to a scoreless draw. The same, however, can’t be said for the leg hosted in Saint John’s.

The match started out rough, with Dominica conceding a penalty in just the 18th minute. Everton Gonsalves made swift work of it, and put the home town favorites up 1-0. Late into the first half, the visiting Dominicans own McIntyre equalized with a goal in the 44th minute.

The teams entered the second half still level, but in the 70th minute, Antiguan player Anthony scored the go-ahead and eventually game winning goal in the first Antiguan victory in over three years.

The Benna Boys were through to the next round.

The CFU Championship finals were scheduled for July of 1988, but before that, another tournament: the CONCACAF Championship, which counted for 1990 World Cup Qualification!

For only the third time in their brief history, Antigua and Barbuda would be fighting it out on the biggest international stage of all! Or, at least, that’s what they planned. But before that, they must qualify.

The two tournaments would overlap, with one qualifying match hosted against Curacao, followed by the three matches of the CFU Championship finals, then the second qualification leg, and then Olympic qualification for the 1988 Summer Games. A very busy summer for the Antiguans.

The Benna Boys had a less than ideal start to the summer, dropping the first qualifying match 1-0 at home against Curacao. Hoping to put this loss behind them, the Antiguans traveled to Martinique for the 1988 CFU Championship Finals. Their first of three matches was against the host nation.

The start of the Finals competition was a high scoring affair, and at the final whistle, Antigua remained level against Martinique with a score of 2-2. The second match, played just two days later, saw Antigua draw long standing rivals Trinidad and Tobago 1-1. Another two days after that saw the Benna Boys conclude the Finals with a third consecutive draw, this time 0-0 against Guadeloupe.

Despite failing to win any of their three matches, Antigua and Barbuda’s three points from three draws was good for second place, behind eventual second time champions Trinidad and Tobago. While it might not seem like much, this was the best finish ever by Antigua in any international tournament. They had only made the finals twice before, and finished last both times.

Hoping to carry this momentum through to their second CONCACAF/World Cup qualification match against Curacao, the Benna Boys traveled to the Netherlands Antilles for what proved to be a much tougher task.

Antigua wound up scoring their only goal as of yet in the tournament, going level at 1-1 in aggregate, but in extra time, eventually conceded three goals, losing 4-1 overall. Not the outcome they hoped for, but after the incredibly busy summer, was still not that bad a result.

Plus, it set up the Benna Boys for something unprecedented.

But first! Some history!

In 1981, the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States was founded with the Treaty of Basseterre. This succeeded the previous West Indies Associated States, a union of islands whose status changed from British colonies to semi-dependent states maintaining association with the United Kingdom in 1967. Due to many of these nations declaring independence, the union became obsolete, leading to the foundation of the OECS.

This organization hosted a soccer tournament in the fall 1988, and Antigua and Barbuda made the final.

This time, instead of a round-robin bracket, there would be a more traditional championship match.

On November 20, 1988, Antigua hosted Saint Lucia for the OECS final, and in front of the home crowd, scored two unanswered goals and won their first ever international championship!

Yes, the Benna Boys finally did it. And while the OECS title might not be as impressive as many other competitions, it’s still a major international victory.

The remaining month of 1988 didn’t see any international play for the Antiguans, but it did see the creation of an new Caribbean championship tournament. The CFU Championship would be folded into the new Caribbean Cup, with the inaugural tournament to be held the following year in Barbados. This would feature three groups and sixteen teams, more participants than any prior Caribbean tournament.

And Antigua was entered.