Ron Newman, American soccer pioneer, dies at 84

Ron Newman, one of American pro soccer's pioneers and winningest coaches, died on Monday morning in Florida at the age of 84.

Like so many of American soccer's pioneers, Newman came from England to play pro soccer in North America for the 1967 launch of the competing NPSL and USA, and he stayed to help it take off.

He coached the San Diego Sockers to 10 indoor championships in 11 years in the NASL indoor circuit and MISL, and he coached the Kansas City Wizards when MLS launched in 1996, but his greatest influence was as a coach with the Dallas Tornado and Ft. Lauderdale Strikers during the growing years of the old NASL.

Newman (top right) came to the United States in 1967 to play for the Atlanta Chiefs of the NPSL and joined the Dallas Tornado midway through the 1968 season when the NPSL and USA merged to become the NASL.

Down to five teams in 1969, the NASL's future was bleak, but the Tornado's owner, Lamar Hunt, did not give up, and the success Newman, named player-coach in 1969, and Tornado players like Englishmen Kenny Cooper, John Best, Roy Turner, Dick Hall, Bobby Moffat and Mike Renshaw had off the field in selling soccer to the Dallas community, offering clinics at elementary schools and in parks, was one of soccer's pivotal moments.

After seven seasons in Dallas, Newman coached the ASL's Los Angeles Skyhawks for one season before moving to Ft. Lauderdale in 1977. In his three seasons, he helped make the Strikers a huge hit, like pro soccer had never seen before or has never seen since in South Florida.

Players on the Strikers included such greats as Gordon Banks, George Best, Gerd Mueller and Teofilo Cubillas and also unknowns like Ray Hudson, who became of the one the NASL's best players and is now a legend in his own right as a broadcaster.

Newman was involved in one of the most famous stunts in the history of American sports. After opening the 1978 season with 7-0, 2-1 and 4-1 losses, the Strikers returned home to host the Los Angeles Aztecs and arranged to have a hearse drive on the field in a mock funeral procession to midfield, where out jumped Newman from a coffin, declaring, “We’re not dead yet!” (The Strikers won, 2-0, and went on to have a winning season.)

Newman built the Sockers into the greatest dynasty of the modern era of American soccer.  Except for the 1986-87 season, they won every indoor title from 1982-92. The stars included Juli Veee, Steve Zungul, Brian Quinn, Hugo Perez, Alan Mayer, Victor Nogueira, Kevin Crow, Jean Willrich, Branko Segota, Kazimierz Deyna and Fernando Clavijo -- a who's who of indoor soccer. Quinn, Perez and Clavijo were all part of the U.S. national team that took off in the late 1980s.

In 1990, Newman was involved in another historical moment in American soccer, lobbying MISL owners to back Alan Rothenberg and use their voting bloc -- one-third of the total vote -- to sweep the Los Angeles attorney into power as U.S. Soccer president.

Inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 1992, Newman also won an NASL title with the Tornado (1971) and ASL title with the Skyhawks (1977). He always managed to keep a sense of perspective and was ready with a good laugh.

When Newman subbed off an out-of-shape George Best after less than half an hour of bringing him on after halftime in a game in 1979, Best threw his jersey at Newman. Asked for his reaction, Newman responded that he always wanted one of Best's jerseys.

In 1971, the playoffs for the eight-team NASL consisted of best-of-three-game series -- no penalty kicks, no aggregate score -- for the semifinals and finals, and the Tornado needed three games to beat the Rochester Lancers and Atlanta Chiefs. Three of the six games went to overtime, lasting 176, 148 and 124 minutes.

After the 176-minute game, a 2-1 loss to the Lancers in Game 1 of the semifinal series, Newman responded, “When the goal went in, that was the only time a team scored and both teams celebrated."

1 comment about "Ron Newman, American soccer pioneer, dies at 84".
  1. Wooden Ships, August 28, 2018 at 2:34 p.m.

    RIP Ron. Great contributions he made here in the states. 

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