Philadelphia Soccer History

Philly Soccer 100: Tacony advances to American Cup semis, league play, fields for Fairmount Park

Photo: The 1910 American Cup winning Tacony FC

Our series looking at Philly soccer happenings one hundred years ago continues.

The scheduling of “national” tournaments such the American Football Association-backed American Cup and the United States of America Football Association-backed National Challenge Cup was somewhat loose one hundred years ago, even in the later rounds of competition. Rather than all games of a given round being scheduled on a particular date, it was more a case of all of the games in a particular round having to be finished by a particular date.

And so it was that the third round American Cup game for Victor of Philadelphia’s professional Pennsylvania League was played on Dec. 27, 1913, as was Allied American League first division side Bethlehem FC’s third round game, while Victor’s Pennsylvania League counterpart Hibernian, finalists in the 1911 tournament, didn’t play their third round game until Jan. 10, 1914. Tacony, who had won the tournament in 1910 — the first local team to do so since the John A. Manz team became the first Philadelphia team to win it in 1897and finalists in the 1913 American Cup, wasn’t scheduled to play their third round game until Jan. 17. By then, Hibernian had already advanced to the American Cup semifinals, while Victor was looking ahead to the third replay of their third round matchup against Jersey City AC, while Bethlehem had yet to play its fourth replay against the West Hudsons.

Tacony advances to American Cup semifinals

In what the Philadelphia Inquirer described on Jan. 18, 1914 as “a typical cup match, where none of the players asked nor gave any quarter,” Tacony defeated Brooklyn FC 3-1 in their third round American Cup match at Tacony Ball Park, at State Road and Unruh Street. The Inquirer described play as “mostly of the kick and rush order, Brooklyn showing the better combination, what little was exhibited.”

Tacony opened the scoring after fifteen minutes of play “with a corking piece of combination that started from their own eighteen-yard mark and did not end until the ball landed safely in the net.” It was outside right Schwartz who, “at the psychological moment…made no mistake with the final shot.” From there, play “zig-zagged from one end of the field to the other” and the score remained at 1-0 at the end of the half.

Photos from the Jan.18, 1914 edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer of the Tacony vs. Brooklyn American Cup match

Photos from the Jan.18, 1914 edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer of the Tacony vs. Brooklyn American Cup match

While the expectation among spectators a the game was that Brooklyn would come out swinging with the resumption of play — they were a favorite to win the tournament and were undefeated in league play — it was Tacony who scored next, with inside left Houison tallying three minutes into the second half after what the Inquirer described as a nice piece of individual effort, “dribbling the ball into position from the eighteen mark, beating practically the entire defense of the Brooklyns.”

Brooklyn center halfback Clark would get a goal back — the Inquirer the goal “could not be called brilliant” — but Tacony center forward Frankie Brown would make it 3-1, scoring what the Inquirer described as “one of the best goals seen for some time.”

Tacony’s goals may have been thrilling, but Brooklyn’s play was too rough for the Inquirer’s reporter, who wrote that the visitors “tried their utmost to win either by fair or foul means” and described the contest as “one of the hardest and roughest games played at Tacony Ball Park so far this season.” At one point, Brooklyn inside right Miller, who had played for Tacony the previous season, punched a spectator, “with the result that the game was stopped until order was restored, the spectator being removed from the field.” After the game, Brooklyn filed a protest for encroachment by the spectators.

When Tacony faced Brooklyn in a preseason friendly on Sept. 20, 1913, the New Yorkers were the 2-1 winners. The Inquirer reported that Brooklyn may have expected “to find easy picking again” when the teams met for the second time, “but on this occasion they were fairly and squarely beaten, the locals being the superior team at every stage of the game.”

Almost four months to the day later, Brooklyn would win the first National Challenge Cup. Before that, Tacony would face Hibernian in the American Cup semifinals.

Benefit doubleheader

A benefit doubleheader for the city’s American League was played at Third and Lehigh on Jan. 17, 1914 in front of nearly 500 spectators. In the opening game, Victoria Plush Mills easily defeated Whitehall Rovers 4-1.

Philadelphia Electrics 1913-14

1913-14 Philadelphia Electrics

The main event featured American League leaders Philadelphia Electric against a picked squad made up of players from the rest of the teams in the league. It took a mere five minutes of play for inside right Gaynor to put “the Live Wires” in the scoring column. By the end of full time, Gaynor had added two more goals to his personal account and the Electrics were 4-0 winners.

League play

In Allied League first division play on Jan. 17, 1914, league leading Bethlehem destroyed visiting Disston, who arrived with only 10 men, 8-0, scoring four goals in each half. Peabody was also on the road, in this case against Reading and, like Disston, arrived one player short. Unlike Disston, Peabody “made a creditable” showing and left with a 1-1 draw. Playing at 44th and Parkside Ave., second place West Philadelphia defeated third place Falls 2-0 in what the Inquirer described as “a corking good game.”

In the Allied League second division, top of the table Putnam lost its first point of the season in a 2-2 road draw with Wilmington’s Windsor FC. Three of the game’s four goals came from penalty kicks. Playing at home with only ten men, Manchester Unity defeated Fairhill Wanderer’s 2-1. Meanwhile, Marcus Hook lost 2-0 to Chester’s Linwood Hibernians.

In third division play, first place Centenary defeated Falls YMA 3-1 at Dobson Field. A “rattling good game” between second place Puritan YML and third place Disston Reserves at Central Park saw the home team Puritans the 2-1 winners. Delaware’s Edgemoor FC easily defeated visiting Darby YMA 6-2. Playing at home at B and Clearfield streets, ten men St. Nathaniel defeated last place Providence FC 2-1.

The United League continued to be the place for lopsided results. In the five games played on Jan. 17, 1914, the winners outscored the losers 29 goals to three. First place North Philadelphia was among the winners, defeating 12th place Era AA 5-0.

Inquirer calls for soccer fields in Fairmount Park

For years, the Inquirer had run a regular column called “The Old Sport’s Musings: If You Can’t Boost Don’t Knock.” On January 19, 1914, part of the column was devoted to a call for soccer fields to be constructed in Fairmount Park. Describing a general boom in organized sport across the city, it read,

Soccer, which only a few years ago was confined to a little clan of foreigners in the Northeast section of the city, has spread with wonderful rapidity. The cricket clubs sometime ago took up soccer as a winter diversion and the game has found its way into the colleges and even the public schools and to the youth of the city in general. Now the question is one of grounds on which the game may be played. For a long time baseballers have enjoyed the vast expanse of Fairmount Park for indulgence in the national pastime and now it is proposed in order to better meet the requirements of the sport-lovers, to lay out a public golf links in the Park. The soccer men and boys should not be overlooked. The open winters and moderate weather of the fall and spring is admirably suited to the playing of the game. Fields of play should be laid out in the Park on the spaces where the baseballers gambol in the warmer months and where thousands could indulge in the sport who are now restricted in their enjoyment for lack of space.

As it was, so now it remains.


  1. Soccer fields in Fairmount Park?!?! Haha. I’ve never seen any piece of land, public or private more underused, underdeveloped and under-imagined than Fairmount Park. With its natural beauty, it should be a world-class destination for a plethora of activities, including soccer. It makes me incredibly sad to think of how little desire there seems to be on the part of the Parks and Recreation department and the city in general to help the park reach its full potential. There should be soccer tournaments there every weekend. That Inky article easily could’ve been January 19, 2014.

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