A previous blog I wrote discussed the possibility of bringing back the ridiculous NASL-style shootout certainly drew heated responses from my soccer media colleagues. But, I stand by my assertions that the shootout is a tiebreaker that has nothing to do with the run of play in soccer and should be left on the scrapheap of US soccer history, along with the 35-yard offsides line and awarding standings points for number of goals scored in a match.
The first response many non-soccer fans will say is, “Just play until someone scores!” Well, exactly that was done in the early days of the NASL, thanks to an idea from the Chairman of the Board of the Rochester Lancers, Charlie Schiano. Many Rochester soccer fans will remember the epic playoff matches between the Lancers and the Dallas Tornado in 1971 in their 2-out-of-3 semi-final series. The first match at Holleder Stadium on August 31 was the longest match in US soccer history, clocking in at 176 minutes, with NASL MVP Carlos Meditieri’s goal giving the Lancers a 2-1 win. The third and deciding contest went 148 minutes and ended with host Rochester losing 2-1 to the Tornado.
One of my prized souvenirs from the Lancer days is the Kick Magazine - 1977 Playoff Edition, which includes an article written by Temple Pouncey of the Dallas Morning News about that longest ever match. In the article, Pouncey states that players were cramping up and limping after about 120 minutes and that each time a 15 minute period ended, the players slumped over motionless and sweat soaked to the turf. At the 165 minute mark, the two coaches, the Lancers’ Sal DeRosa and Ron Newman of Dallas appealed to NASL Commissioner Phil Woosnam to stop the madness and decide the contest with penalties or anything. Some of the comments from the Dallas players who competed in the match from the article include:
“There was just emptiness, a void.” – captain John Best
“That game was mental cruelty” – goalkeeper Ken Cooper
“Criminal…diabolical…ridiculous” – Other Dallas players
The obvious conclusion here is that it is simply not fair to the players to have a match continue until a goal is scored. This is not hockey, where a skater is on the ice for 2-3 minutes, including faceoff breaks, and then rests for 5-10 more. In a regulation match, players run an average of 10-12 miles, so anything more than the current 30 minutes of extra time would be too taxing and turn the contest into a war of attrition, not the beautiful game we love. And, for those who say, “Allow unlimited substitutions in overtime” or “Take one player from each team off the field every 5 minutes”, that would fundamentally change the rules that govern play. Why not just eliminate offsides in overtime or bar the goalkeepers from using their hands (don’t laugh, that has also been suggested)? Changing the basic game is not the answer!
The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author's, and not necessarily those of Joe Sirianni, Dick Howard, Michael Lewis or WYSL 1040-AM Radio. Feel free to send any questions or comments firstname.lastname@example.org.