Finding the original ASL

Posted on August 27, 2012 12:08 am

Perhaps the greatest single effort in expanding the knowledge of the history of soccer in the United States has been the work done by Colin Jose in uncovering the forgotten story of the original American Soccer League of the 1920s.

This league wasn’t entirely hidden. Things written about it at the time still existed on microfilm. But it was so obscured by decade after decade of later events being heaped on top of its that it had become virtually invisible before Colin went digging about 20 years ago and pulled it out from underneath the pile (the visibility hadn’t been improved any by an apparent desire by the second, 1933-83, version of the ASL to pretend that its predecessor had never happened). Colin’s work resulted in a book, titled American Soccer League, 1921-31, that was published in 1998. Here is what Colin wrote in the preface of that book:

“Back in 1969, I received from the American Soccer League of that time a list of the winners of the ASL championship. The list began with the winners of the 1933-34 season, the Kearny Irish-Americans. At the time, I thought nothing about it, but imagine my surprise when, many years later, in searching through microfilm of the New York Times of 1925 for details of the United States versus Canada international of that year, I found details of the American Soccer League. How could this be, I wondered, when according to the American Soccer League, the league began operating in 1933?

“I talked to a number of people, searched through what books there were on the history of the game in the United States, and discovered that yes, there was an American Soccer League before 1933, but no one seemed to know a great deal about it.

“Finally, I decided to find out when the league began and try to compile a list of the champions before 1933. I found that the league was formed, not in 1933, but twelve years earlier in 1921, and as my research progressed I realized that these forgotten early years of the American Soccer League represented perhaps the most important decade in American soccer to that time–a decade matched only in importance by the 17 years of the North American Soccer League in the 1970s and 1980s.

“In order to grasp its significance, not only to the history of soccer in the United States and Canada, but also its impact on the European game of that time, it became necessary to reconstruct the record of the ASL from its first games in 1921 until its collapse in chaos in 1932.”

Reconstructing that record is exactly what Colin did in the course of years of visits to libraries in numerous cities, particularly Fall River, Mass. American Soccer League, 1921-31 contains game-by-game records of every team in every season, plus statistical records of every player who ever played in the league, biographical sketches of more than 150 players and administrators, and box scores of more than 70 games between ASL teams and foreign teams.

In short, Colin unearthed quite a bit, but that’s not surprising considering what a determined researcher he is. For example, he uncovered the true facts concerning the six men repeatedly referred to erroneously as “British ex-pros” in the 1930 U.S. World Cup team, and he uncovered the fact that 1930s American star Billy Gonsalves, often referred to as William Gonsalves, was really named Adelino. Whether the subject is wide or narrow, Colin has never been satisfied with the conventional wisdom.

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