55 YEARS AGO TODAY: The Rochester Lancers played their first game on May 30, 1967

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Above is part of an advertisement in the Rochester Times-Union about the Rochester Lancers’ first-ever game on May 30, 1967.

The following is an excerpt from Michael Lewis’ book Alive and Kicking: The Incredible Story of the Rochester Lancers. The Lancers faced Concordia of Germany in an exhibition game.

By Michael Lewis

FrontRowSoccer.com Editor

For the nascent Rochester Lancers debut, Rochester fans were treated to a doubleheader at Aquin Stadium on Tuesday, May 30. In the first game at 1 p.m., the Rochester Baysiders junior team faced Rochester Institute of Technology to a 3-3 draw.

Then, for the first time, a football team named the Rochester Lancers officially lined up for a game.

For the record, the Lancers roster was: Orest Banach (Chicago) in goal, Frank Caricchio (Italian American Sport Club) at right back, Allen Harvey (Toronto) at left back, Zenon Snylyk (Newark, NJ) at right-back, Bohdan (Don) Lalka (Rochester) at centre-half, Dennis Jones (IASC) at left-half, Nelson Bergamo (Rochester) at right outside, John Kerr (Hamilton, Canada) at inside right, Jorgen Petersen (Toronto) at center forward, Andrew Yrfelt (Toronto) at inside left and Wilfried Kohler (IASC) at outside left.

Four substitutes were used: Kurt Harold (Ukrainian-American Sports Club), Frank Tata (IASC), Luis Fernando (IASC) and Omero Paris (IASC).

Several Lancers ended up having double duty on back-to-back days as ISAC met the Ukrainian-American sports club in a Northwestern Soccer Cup semi-final at Cobbs Hill Park the previous Sunday. The Italians overcame a two-goal deficit as Bergamo scored twice and Tata and Harold added single goals en route to a 4-2 triumph.

Concordia’s (Germany) line-up included Harold Voight in net, Volker Waldmueller at right-back, Gert Meister at left-back, Horst Engel at right-half, Peter Ebert at centre-half, Manfred Junke at left-half, Edgar Puchmueller outside right, Heiner Castroff centre-forward, Dirk Stuelcken inside left and Werner Bayerl outside left.

Two replacements were used: Claus Martens and Helmut Schipper.

During the pre-match ceremonies, Mayor Frank Lamb, who admitted to playing football before, gave the midfielder the honorary kick-off, using a “smart shot” at the center spot. The Star Spangled Banner and Deutschland, Deuschland Uber Alles were played and then the match started.

“That first game was a lot of fun,” said Lalka, a Ukrainian-born Rochesterian. “But it was difficult to communicate with a guy you had never seen before.”

John Kerr, who was identified as Peter Keer in both newspapers because his name was misspelled in the game’s program, agreed. Kerr, a 23-year-old Scotsman, who installed telephones in Toronto while playing in several Canadian soccer leagues. He then played in the North American Soccer League and eventually became the head of the NASL and the Major Indoor Soccer League Players Union (he died in June 2011).

“I remember the game very well,” Kerr said years later. “I don’t remember the exact amount we received, but it was something like $150 plus expenses. The course was excellent, in good condition.

“It was a situation where you met players you were playing with on game day and then you didn’t see them again. At the time, I didn’t realize it was the first game played in Rochester.

Concordia, a club founded in 1907, reportedly had a well-organized youth system and finished sixth, its best showing in the North German Regional Football League. During their US tour, Concordia had recorded a 3-0-1 mark entering the Rochester contest, tying the Greek-Americans (New York City), 1-1, toppling Detroit Carpathia, 4-2, rolling over the Chicago Midwest All-Stars, 4-1, and beating the St. Paul All-Stars, 5-1.

The star affair kicked off at 3 p.m. as the Lancers begin their journey through pristine football waters. All of the goals came in the second half, although the Lancers pretty much threw everything at the German side in the opening 10 minutes, taking nine shots. Fernando would have had the first opportunity, sending it straight back to Voight. At the other end of the field, Banach made “some outstanding acrobatic saves,” according to Alex Loj’s report in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, to keep visitors at bay.

The first goal to Aquinas came in the 52nd minute, Kerr, by far Rochester’s best player, dribbled around three defenders and fired a shot 18 yards over Voight’s hands. The 5-5, 145 pounds. Kerr appeared to have been fouled in the penalty area just two minutes later, but referee James Dickie did not call for a penalty.

For a span of five minutes, things quickly went downhill for the hosts. First, Castroff fired a ball into the left corner for the equalizer in the 64th minute. Four minutes later, Junke gave Concordia a 2-1 lead. Puchmueller kicked Banach out of the net and Junke slotted the ball into the left corner. The West Germans gave themselves some breathing room in the 69th minute when Bayerl found Vogler with a perfect pass for a 3-1 advantage.

“They were a fraction of a second faster,” Carrichio told The Times-Union. “That’s how they got those quick goals.”

Kerr, called a “hard worker and unstoppable” by the D&C, continued his superb solo performance, unleashing a powerful shot from Voight’s right side to cut the deficit to 3-2. But Engel scored the last goal as Paris couldn’t control the ball.

Both managers, Roman Kucil of the Lancers and Wilke Martin of Concordia, agreed that Kerr was the better Lancer. Kucil told the D&C that Kerr was the most exciting player on the court. Kerr, according to a published report, “held center stage by displaying speed, shooting ability and play.”

“My team was better in the main points of football,” Martin told The Times-Union. “The whole team worked together in defense and attack. It will be better. The Rochester team had great speed in the first half. Trained by a good man, the team will go forward. I would like to bring number 8 back with me. It was the best.

No. 8 was, of course, Kerr.

D&C editor Anne Stearns, admitting she didn’t know much about the beautiful game, wrote that she was quite impressed with what happened off the pitch. “Unlike players in other sports, who need rubs, pep talks and loving care during halftime, both teams casually tossed balls down the sideline during the 10-minute break and signed autographs for the juvenile fans.

“They seemed to enjoy watching the Emerald Statesmen Drum and Bugle Corps, during the halftime presentation, as did the cheering crowd.”

Stearns was surprised that the players were so adept at directing the ball. “This little maneuver is great to watch, but it looks like it would be worse than a hangover on the average head,” she wrote. “A footballer assured me later that it didn’t really hurt. “We are hard-headed,” he said, his face impassive.

Remember, this was decades before the serious concern of concussions in American soccer and football.

All things Considered, [lead owner Rudy] LePore was happy with the turnout, not necessarily how things went on the field. He said the anticipated sale was around 1,500 and many students and high school students attended the game. “We are very pleased with the turnout,” he told the Rochester Times-Union. “We don’t think the scoreline is indicative of the type of team we have. It was the first time they were all together.

FrontRowSoccer.com editor Michael Lewis has written a new book, ALIVE AND KICKING The Incredible But True Story Of The Rochester Lancers. You can learn more or buy it here:

www.Rochesterlancersbook.com

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