New-York Historical Society's Bill Shannon Dictionary of New York Sports

Category Archives: Soccer

Billy Gonsalves


Billy Gonsalves (Soccer.  Born, Fall River, MA, Aug. 10, 1908; died, Kearny, NJ, July 17, 1977.)  When the names of American-born soccer greats are discussed the one name that leads all the lists is that of William (Billy) Gonsalves, a potent scoring threat and an even better set-up man from his inside forward position.  Gonsalves began his career in his native Fall River, a soccer hotbed due to a concentration of Portuguese immigrants, in 1914.  Within two years, he was playing with Boston clubs and very shortly gravitated to the major teams in the New York area.  He was the star of the Brooklyn Hispanic national championship teams in 1933 and 1934 before moving to St. Louis where he turned Stix, Baer and Fuller into a national champion as well.  Gonsalves returned to the New York area and played for a wide range of clubs including the New York Yankees S.C., Healys of White Plains, NY, the Kearny Scots-Americans, the Newark Soccer Club and the Portuguese S.C. in Newark.  Later in his career, he served as a playing coach for many of the teams on which he starred.  When the World Cup competition began in 1930, Gonsalves was a star member of the U.S. team that journeyed to Montevideo, Uruguay, for the initial competition and was a major part of the 1934 U.S. team in the World Cup in Rome.  In the game won by the U.S., 4-2, over Mexico, Buff Donelli scored all four of the American goals but he was assisted on all four by Gonsalves. Like all great scorers, Gonsalves had the ability to draw the defense to him and then give the ball to his other attacking teammates for good scoring opportunities. But Gonsalves was more than an innately-gifted player. He understood the game thoroughly and maximized his entire team’s skills.

Tim Howard


Tim Howard (Soccer.  Born, North Brunswick, NJ, Mar. 6, 1979.)  A high school basketball and soccer player at North Brunswick H.S., Timothy Howard became one of the top goalkeepers in U.S. history with the MetroStars.  Howard’s emergence was even more remarkable since he was born with Tourette’s Syndrome, a neurological disorder.  He turned pro immediately out of high school, joining the North Jersey Imperials in 1997.  Howard made his M.L.S. debut Aug. 18, 1998, and won, making five saves as the MetroStars defeated Colorado, 4-1, at Giants Stadium.  Howard spent most of 1999 with the U.S. Under-23 national team but made eight starts and one relief appearance for the MetroStars.  He had a strong 1.58 goals-allowed average.  Howard was 5-2-2 in 2000, backing up Mike Ammann and then taking over after Ammann’s season was ended Aug. 16 in a collision with New England’s Mamadou Diallo.  Ammann was traded to D.C. United Feb. 4, 2001, and Howard became the full-time starter.  That season, he led the M.L.S. in saves (146) and three other categories, won 13 games with four shutouts, played every minute of the season and was Goalkeeper of the Year.  In 2002, Howard was the All-Star game starter and the post-season First Team All-Star with a 1.61 goals-allowed average.  He also again led the league in saves (140) and save average (5.12) while recording four shutouts.  On Jan. 27, 2003, Howard agreed to a four-year contract with the MetroStars, but after the next season, he was released to the English 1st Division.  He started in all of the U.S.’ games in the 2010 World Cup.

Clint Mathis


Clint Mathis (Soccer. Born, Conyers, GA, Nov. 25, 1976.) In the span of 67 games over a four-season period, Clinton Mathis became the second-highest career goal scorer in MetroStars history. Mathis came to the MetroStars on May 16, 2000, in a dispersal draft after Los Angeles acquired Luis Hernandez. He scored 13 goals with 13 assists in 21 games, had 16 goals overall (including eight games with Los Angeles), and finished second in the M.L.S. in scoring. Mathis tore his right anterior cruciate ligament June 5, 2001, in Columbus, O., while practicing with the U.S. national team. He played only 10 games (but scored seven goals) that season. A torn meniscus in the same knee in July limited him to 14 M.L.S. games in 2002 and only four goals. Mathis logged nine goals in 22 games in 2003 and after the M.L.S. season signed with Hannover 96 of the German major league Jan. 20, 2004. He finished with 33 goals and 21 assists for 87 points for the MetroStars. Mathis had a five-goal game on Aug. 26, 2000, in a 6-4 victory at Dallas that clinched the MetroStars’ first M.L.S. Eastern Division title, and had a three-goal game against Kansas City in a 4-1 win May 2, 2001. The midfielder was an All-American as a sophomore at South Carolina in 1995 (where he played from 1994-97) and was picked by Los Angeles in the 1998 M.L.S. draft.

Shep Messing


Shep Messing (Soccer. Born, Roslyn, NY, Oct. 9, 1949.) Although he earned his greatest recognition during his years as the goalie for the Cosmos in the North American Soccer League, Shep Messing is a man of many parts who has been often brilliant, sometimes controversial and always a competitor. Messing graduated from Harvard with honors in 1972 and the next season made his first appearance with the Cosmos, playing one game. After more part-time play in 1974, he was traded to Boston where he was the N.A.S.L.’s leading goalkeeper in 1975 and was re-acquired by the Cosmos the next season after an injury to Bob Rigby. He was a regular on the 1977 team that won the Soccer Bowl in Pele’s final season. He then shifted his attention to indoor soccer where he spent six seasons with the New York Arrows, based in the Nassau Coliseum, when the club was the dominant team in the Major Indoor Soccer League. He was the first-team MISL goalie three straight years, 1979-81 and played on four championship teams (1979-82). He also played briefly with the Cosmos’ indoor team in 1983-84. Messing performed the unusual trick of being a regular player and the club president of the New York Express when that franchise joined the M.I.S.L. in 1986. In his six seasons with the Arrows, he won 104 of 153 games in the net while his 15 saves against Toronto on July 7, 1976 (in a 3-0 win) was a Cosmos club record. His total career saves (313) is the second highest ever for the Cosmos. He has also been a television commentator on soccer.

Tiffeny Milbrett


Tiffeny Milbrett (Soccer. Born, Portland, OR, Oct. 23, 1972.) During the three-year history of the W.U.S.A., Tiffeny Milbrett was one of the league’s stars. Milbrett was the league M.V.P. in its inaugural season (2001), scored its first hat trick when the Power beat Boston in 2011, and in three seasons scored 31 goals and 79 points in 56 regular-season games before the league disbanded. Her 16 goals in 20 games in 2001 were a league record. Milbrett came to the Power as an established international star at forward, having started for the 1996 gold medal Olympians and the 1999 women’s World Cup champions. She scored the game-winning goal against China to give the U.S. the gold in at the Atlanta Olympiad. At the U. of Portland, where she played from 1990 to 1994, Milbrett had 103 goals and 40 assists for 246 points, fourth-highest in N.C.A.A. history. She also played professionally in Japan for two seasons (1995-96) and for four teams after the Power disbanded.

Pele


Pele (Soccer.  Born, Tres Coracoes, Brazil, Oct. 23, 1940.)  Although he joined the Cosmos in the twilight of his brilliant career, Edson Arantes do Nascimento (better known as Pelé) was probably single-handedly responsible for setting off a major surge of soccer interest in the United States.  Prior to joining the Cosmos, Pelé had accomplished some interesting milestones in his career while playing in New York for Santos, his original Brazilian club.  On June 21, 1968, at Yankee Stadium, he scored the 900th goal of his career against Napoli in what was then an annual appearance for Santos.  On June 6, 1975, Pelé signed with the Cosmos and played nine games that season with the club.  In 1976, he was chosen the North American Soccer League’s Most Valuable Player while scoring 13 goals in 22 games.  The next season was the final one of his career, but he led the Cosmos to their first N.A.S.L. Soccer Bowl championship.  During the 1976 season Pelé scored the 1,250th goal of his career, also at Yankee Stadium, against Tampa Bay on July 14.  He is acknowledged as the greatest soccer player in the history of the game and perhaps the most famous athlete in the world.

Don Popovic


Don Popovic (Soccer.  Born, Ivangrad, Yugoslavia, Jan. 1, 1941.)  An aggressive coach who was a master at winning when he had good talent, Don Popovic steered the New York Arrows to four M.I.S.L. championships in the first four years of the league (1978-79 to 1981-82).  Popovic left the Arrows late in the 1982-83 season to coach Golden Bay with a record of 131 wins in 170 regular-season games.  He was also 17-4 in the playoffs.  Popovic coached five other teams in the league (including one game with the New York Express in 1986) but never even made the playoff finals.

John Reeves


John Reeves (College athletics.  Born, New York, NY, Jan. 14, 1939.)  A successful soccer coach turned administrator, Dr. John A. Reeves became Columbia’s fifth full-time director of athletics in 1991, succeeding Al Paul (q.v.).  Reeves was the soccer coach at both Bloomfield College (1961-68) and Drew U. (1969-81) in New Jersey, compiling a 172-84-28 record.  He has also published five books on the sport.  Reeves was also director of athletics at Drew (1969-81) before holding the same position at the U. of Rochester (1981-87) and Stony Brook (1987-91).  At Columbia, he oversaw a significant expansion of facilities at the Dodge Physical Fitness Center and expanded the women’s athletic program, adding field hockey and lacrosse.  He retired June 30, 2004.  Reeves earned his undergraduate degree at Montclair State, his M.S. at Penn State, and his Ed.D. at Columbia (1983).

Werner Roth


Werner Roth (Soccer.  Born, Bosnia, Yugoslavia, Apr. 4, 1948.)  One of the outstanding defensive players in the history of the North American Soccer League, Werner Roth began playing organized soccer with New York’s German-Hungarians and finished as the captain of the Cosmos 1978 Soccer Bowl champions.  Roth played in the German-American League (later the Cosmopolitan League) as a 16-year-old amateur, but by age 24 was a leading backliner for the Cosmos.  He played on the team’s first three N.A.S.L. championship clubs (1972, 1977 and 1978) as a defensive complement to such high-scoring stars as Randy Horton, Pele (q.v.), and Giorgio Chinaglia (q.v.).  During his nine-season career with the Cosmos, Roth played 10,632 minutes in regular-season N.A.S.L. action and attempted only 41 shots on goal.  He scored only two goals and assisted on five others in his career.  Still, when he retired after playing in only one game (for 18 minutes) in 1979, he was the club’s all-time leader in games played (123) and was considered one of the finest defensive players in American soccer.  Roth’s career was terminated by a series of injuries.  In 1978, he played every minute of the Cosmos’ first 16 games, but was then sidelined by a knee injury and sat out four games.  Perhaps returning before he was fully recovered, he then injured his ankle in the playoffs, but played every game as the captain of the squad that captured Soccer Bowl ‘78.

Nick Sakiewicz


Nick Sakiewicz (Soccer.  Born, Passaic, NJ, Jan. 14, 1961.)  Rarely in pro sports has a team experienced the dramatic turnaround that the MetroStars effected following the appointment of Nick Sakiewicz as general manager Jan. 13, 2000. Having the worst record in the four-year history of Major League Soccer in 1999 (7-25), the team went 17-12-3 in 2000, making the semifinal round of the playoffs and the U.S. Cup after winning the East Division title. Sakiewicz was able to give new coach Octavio Zambrano increased firepower (particularly with the acquisition of Clint Mathis (q.v.)) and also juggled goalies successfully at the end of the season when regular Mike Ammonn was injured. Sakiewicz was himself a goalie at the University of New Haven (Conn.) and spent some time as a goalie coach. He was also in private business and the M.L.S. office before being named president and general manager of the Tampa Bay Mutiny in 1997. Sakiewicz was the league’s “Executive of the Year” in 1999 before returning to his native New Jersey to join the MetroStars.  In 2005, he was succeeded as general manager by Alexei Lalas.  He later became C.E.O. of the Philadelphia Union, which played its first M.L.S. season in 2010.

About This Dictionary

The Bill Shannon Biographical Dictionary of New York Sports is an open database of sports biographies maintained by Jordan Sprechman and Marty Appel. We welcome public and scholarly contributions and suggestions.

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A prolific author, wire service sports reporter, long time Major League Baseball official scorer, football statistician, sports museum founder, theatrical agency owner and public ... read more

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