A big one that got away

glovescan0001 A fifth round of odd facts from American soccer history:

---Imagine how American fans would react if something like this were to happen today: On March 7, 1965, the United States opened qualifying for the 1966 World Cup by playing a 2-2 tie with Mexico in front of 22,579 spectators at the Los Angeles Coliseum. Early in the second half, United States goals by Walter Shmotolocha and Helmut Bicek gave the Americans an unexpected 2-1 lead, but Mexico tied the game a few minutes after Bicek's goal and it stayed tied the rest of the way. The tying goal, which deprived the United States of what would have been its first victory over Mexico in 31 years, came on a penalty by Salvador Reyes awarded after American goalkeeper Victor Gerley brought the ball down on the head of a Mexican forward who was harassing him. If I had to pick the situation that the U.S. men have had the most experience at in recent years, it would be protecting a one-goal lead in the second half of a World Cup qualifier. They could have used some of that wisdom on this day.

---You think soccer and poetry don't mix? Well, maybe they don't, because it is a stretch to call what follows poetry. This bit of doggerel appeared in the Newark Evening News the day after the Scots-Americans of Kearny, N.J., won the 1915 American Football Association Cup by beating heavily favored Brooklyn Celtic, 1-0, on a goal by 17-year-old Archie Stark. Came Celtics down from Brooklyn town on championship intent. The Scottish clan, Ameri-can, on winning, too, were bent. Swelled Celtic chests, 'neath emerald vests; they'd win without ado. But Archie Stark, 'ere it was dark, made them a humble crew.

---The first league champion in American soccer was the Hibernians of St. Louis, who took the Western Football Association title in that league's inaugural season, 1883-84. Although it was the first league in American soccer, it wasn't much of a league in that first season. There were only three teams, Hibernians, Thistles and Irish-Americans. Hibernians captured the championship with an unimpressive record of one victory, one defeat and three ties.

---During the U.S. team's trip home from the 1930 World Cup in Uruguay, it played six friendlies against Uruguayan and Brazilian clubs. In those six games, 10 United States goals were disallowed, including one against Santos that was disallowed after the game, which had been a 4-3 American victory.

---The first American to referee a game between two other countries was Ed Donaghy, a former Bethlehem Steel player from western Pennsylvania whose refereeing career also included two U.S. Open Cup finals. In 1934, he handled all three games of the World Cup qualifying series betweeen Mexico and Cuba. Those three games, on March 4, March 11 and March 18, all were played in Mexico City and all were won by Mexico.

---Before the first NASL season, in 1968, Dallas Tornado coach Bob Kap, who was Yugoslavian, put together a team of young British, Dutch and Scandinavan players. This team, which supposedly was representing an American city, then went on a bizarre 45-game tour through 19 countries on four continents (particularly Asia) before it ever set foot in the United States. It did win 10 games on that tour, which was eight more than it won during that NASL season.