A soggy homecoming

archibald The U.S. men's national team played its first home game (after seven on the road) at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn on Nov. 8, 1925. It would be tempting to say that this was the U.S. team's first game on its home soil, but that would be stretching a point somewhat. There was far too much liquid involved in this game to really refer to the surface on which it was played as soil.

Here's a description from the following day's New York Times: "The United States soccer eleven slid, skidded, swam and ran to a 6-to-1 victory on Ebbets Field, Brooklyn, yesterday against the representatives of Canada. On a rain-soaked field that became more slippery and slimy every minute, the wearers of the American shield captured the championship of North America...Few athletic contests of any sort of have been played under more miserable weather conditions...there were mud-soaked figures writhing in the mire from start to finish...The rain was falling an hour before game time and when the teams took the field it was a sea of mud. The rain continued to fall throughout and stopped only after the final whistle had blown and the turf had been churned to a quagmire."

Ebbets Field was a major-league baseball park, where the Brooklyn Dodgers played from 1913 to 1957, and baseball teams have been known to be very touchy about seeing their fields damaged by soccer games in bad weather. That was not a problem this time. This was after the end of the baseball season, with the Dodgers not scheduled to return for five months, although that fact probably didn't make the soccer players feel any drier.

The horrible conditions may have contributed to the United States' runaway victory. The Canadian team played in a short-passing, ball-on-the-ground style that did not work well in the slop. The United States team can't have enjoyed playing in this weather either, but its aerial style was not as badly affected. It does appear that the game swung farther and farther in the Americans' direction as the conditions got worse and worse. The game was still tied, 1-1, at halftime, but the second half was a rout.

That New York Times story credited five of the United States goals to Archie Stark (above), but other accounts show that it was really only four. Even so, it was a dominating effort for the Bethlehem Steel star, who played only two games for the United States in his career. In the first of those, against the same opponent five months earlier in Montreal, he had been held scoreless.

Presumably, a few errant shots must have banged off Ebbets Field's famous right-field wall. However, the "Hit sign, win suit" advertisement for the Brooklyn clothing store owned by Abe Stark (no relation to Archie) wasn't put up until 1931, so Archie Stark had to settle for his hat trick plus one.

One year later, the United States played Canada again on the same field. This time, the weather was a different as could be, but the score was similar. The United States won, 6-2.