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Philly Soccer 100: Big interleague match, Bethlehem continues to dominate

Photo: The 1913 American League picked team

2013 is the centennial of the US Soccer Federation. Our series looking back at the Philadelphia soccer scene one hundred years ago continues.

One hundred years ago this week, the attention of the Philadelphia soccer scene was squarely on the interleague exhibition match between the pick of the city’s professional Pennsylvania League and the amateur American League on Jan. 25, 1913. The Inquirer’s matchday preview described the ranks of the Pennsylvania League team as including “all the leading players from the Hibernians, Victors, Tacony and the Thistles, which are recognized as the four leading clubs in this city and vicinity.” According to the Inquirer, the majority of the players on the American League team had previously played on teams in the Pennsylvania League. Writing, “There is speed in abundance in the amateur eleven which may offset the experience that will be opposed to them,” the Inquirer opined, “it is a very remote question if there is an amateur team in the country which could hold its own with the eleven which will oppose the professionals this afternoon.”

Absent from the American League team were any players from Boys’ Club, who were currently in first place and unbeaten in league play. The team had been scheduled to play the Boys’ Club of New York in that city the previous day but the game had been cancelled, wrote the Inquirer on Jan. 26, “on account of the New Yorkers not being able to raise their strongest team.”

Three minutes after the 3pm kickoff at the Hibernian grounds at 2nd and Allegheny, The Pennsylvania League team scored its first goal courtesy of the Hibernian’s center forward McNichol. Twenty minutes later, McNichol made it 2–0. “Right from the kick-off there was never any question as to which was the better eleven,” wrote the Inquirer in its match report on Jan. 26, “for the Pennsylvania Leaguers, with the cream of their players in the circuit opposing the amateurs, worked together like a well-oiled machine.”

The Pennsylvania League team may have been superior but the American League team, who were “gayly decked in the National colors,” was game and 18 minutes into the second half, inside right Foster of the Athletics made it 2–1. “The American Leaguers, although beaten easily, seemed to take on a new lease on life in the second half, ” wrote the Inquirer, “and the goal scored by Foster resulted after all the front liners had taken a hand in working the sphere down the field, Foster doing the needful after a dashing run.” The Pennsylvania League eleven responded by scoring three goals in quick succession, McNichol scoring one of them to complete his hat trick, and the game ended 5–1.

Despite the scoreline, the Inquirer had praise for the “brilliant defense of the American Leaguers” and pointed to their goalkeeper, “who appeared to lose his nerve entirely,” for allowing two second half goals that “any ordinary custodian would have saved.”

Interleague play would continue on Saturday, Feb. 1 when picked teams representing the Allied League and the American league would play a benefit match at Third and Lehigh for Earnest Thomas, the Peabody player who had suffered a broken leg in a Allied League first division match against West Philadelphia several weeks before.

West Philadelphia FC 1913League play

Because of the interleague exhibition game, play in the Pennsylvania and American Leagues had been suspended for the weekend. Still, there were plenty of games in the three divisions of the Allied American league and the new United League would be opening its second week of competition.

In the Allied first division, Bethlehem continued their romp through the league table. After defeating Falls 12–0 at home the week before, Bethlehem thumped sixth place Peabody 7–1 on the road, bringing their season goal total to 73 for and seven against, a goal difference of +66. Second place West Philadelphia made quick work of seventh place Kensington with a 5–0 win at home while third place Cardington edged past Falls, 2–1.

In the Allied American second division, Wilmington’s Irish Americans continued their winnings ways with a 2–0 victory over Clan Gordon. In a derby game at Disston Park, second place Disston drew 1–1 with fourth place Tacony AC (not to be confused with the Tacony team in the Pennsylvania League).

The United League continued with a full schedule of six games in their second week of play with P.H.L. and North Philadelphia YMA remaining undefeated. The two teams had combined over the first two games of the season to outscore their opponents 31 to 3.

1-26-1913 scores


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