Philadelphia Soccer History

Philly Soccer 100: Bethlehem advances to American Cup semis

Photo: Bethlehem FC vs. West Hudsons, from the Feb. 1, 1914 edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer

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

On a rainy Jan. 31, 1914, Bethlehem FC and Harrison, New Jersey’s West Hudson AA met at Tacony Ball Park at State Road and Unruh Street in what would be their  fourth third round American Cup tie. After their first meeting had ended in a 1-1 draw in front of 2000 spectators in Bethlehem on Dec. 27, 1913, the Steel Workers traveled to Harrison for the replay on Jan. 3, 1914, only for the game to be suspended due to poor weather late in the second half with score again tied at 1-1. When the teams met for the third replay in front of 2000 spectators at the Harrison Oval on Jan. 11, the game ended once more with the sides level at 1-1.

West Hudson FC

West Hudson AA

Things got off to a poor start for the West Hudsons in the fourth replay when, as the Philadelphia Inquirer reported on Feb. 1, 1914, they arrived in Philadelphia shorthanded after two of their players had missed their train. This unfortunate turn of events saw a substitute player in goal with the regular starting goalkeeper moved to outside right to fill the attacking line — this in the days when every team played with four forwards — and the West Hudsons playing the entire 90 minutes with only ten men.

The American Football Association, organizers of the American Cup tournament, had scheduled the game on neutral ground in Philadelphia with a 2:30 pm kickoff so that, should regulation time end with the scoreline again level, two 15 minute periods of extra time could be played in the remaining daylight of the winter shortened day. As the Inquirer reported, despite such scheduling, the referee delayed the kickoff for an hour. “There was not the least doubt but that the game should have been called at the proper time, and if the grounds were not fit or the elements against the game, which proved to be the case at the appointed hour for kicking off, the match should have been postponed. Where the referee received the authority from to delay the game one hour and allow the spectators to get a drenching in the meantime is more than the writer can fathom.”

A report in the Feb. 2 edition of the South Bethlehem Globe described that, because of the poor weather, the West Hudsons had cancelled their scheduled private train to Philadelphia. With no word being received that the game had been postponed, the West Hudsons were left to taking a regularly scheduled train and, as a result, the team did not arrive in Philadelphia until the scheduled 2:30 pm kickoff. Bethlehem itself hadn’t arrived at Tacony Ball Park until 2 pm. the The Globe reported, the “Bethlehems meanwhile had protested to the referee about the late arrival of their opponents and the official stated that if they desired they could claim the game. This, however, they were reluctant to do and decided to play rather than claim it. During the interval Manager Murray of the West Hudsons handed Referee Montgomery a protest on account of the late start, which is rather amusing, seeing that the West Hudson caused it.”

When the game did finally begin at 3:46 pm, the Inquirer reported that Bethlehem “played like demons in the first few minutes,” and, 12 minutes after the opening whistle, BFC center forward Donaghy scored. While Bethlehem “had all the better of the game for a time afterwards,” they were unable to capitalize on their numerical advantage and the West Hudsons equalized shortly before the end of the first half.

Bethlehem inside right Lance in play against the West Hudsons.

Bethlehem inside right Lance in play at Tacony Ballpark against the West Hudsons.

Five minutes after the restart of play, Bethlehem inside right Lance made it 2-1. Four minutes later, future National Soccer Hall of Famer Tommy Fleming made it 3-1. In the 69th minute, Fleming tallied again for the final goal of the contest and Bethlehem finished the game the 4-1 winners.

While the Globe reported, “For the most part, the game was cleanly played,” the Inquirer described, “As was to be expected, there was a great deal of roughness infused into the game and in consequence fouls were very frequent.” With some 18 minutes left in the match, Bethlehem right fullback McKelvie was sent off by the referee for deliberately kicking a West Hudson player, who was on the the ground, “in a delicate place,” so both teams finished the game with ten players.

The Inquirer declared that, while Bethlehem had been the stronger team, it was the West Hudsons who showed “the real finesse of the game.” The Inquirer match report singled out too much “individual play” among the Bethlehem front line as the team’s primary weakness and described them as “evidently being under the impression that they were the only players, for every time they received the ball they either held onto it until robbed of possession or else took a flyer at their opponents’ goal when a pass to one of their conferees would probably have achieved better results.”

On Feb. 2, the Inquirer said of the game, “The undefeated champions of the Allied League, Bethlehem, did not show anything above the ordinary against the West Hudsons, and it might have been a more closer game if the Jerseymen had come with their full strength.”

Bethlehem FC 1913-14

Bethlehem FC 1913-14

With the win, Bethlehem advanced to a semifinal meeting with Jersey AC, who had knocked out Pennsylvania League side Victor the week before. The other semifinal game would feature Pennsylvania League sides Tacony and Hibernian. The Inquirer declared on Feb. 2, “On Saturday’s form the winner of the Hibernians-Tacony game in the semi-final of the A.F.A Cup  competition appears to have the trophy clinched, In the writer’s estimation neither Bethlehem nor Jersey A.C. can hold the locals, and it looks as if the cup will find a resting place in this berg for another season.”

It would be neither the first time, nor last, that a soccer pundit was proved wrong.

League play

Poor weather the previous weekend had seen the cancellation of every local game in Philadelphia’s soccer leagues, with nearly an inch of rain falling on the area on Jan. 24, 1914. The weather wasn’t much better on Jan. 31, with more than half an inch of rain being recorded, but at least the high temperature for the day reached 64 degrees and the low never dropped below freezing. Still, the weather saw only four Allied Division games being played.

In the Allied American League first divisio, Falls and Smith AA — “Owing to the heavy downpour of rain” — were both shorthanded for their meeting at Washington Park at 26th and Allegheny. While both teams were only able to field nine players, the Inquirer reported, “Falls proved to be the best mud horses and won out by the final score of 3 goals to 1.”

Chester's Linwood Hibernians, 1913-14

Chester’s Linwood Hibernians, 1913-14

In the second division, undefeated Putnam was handed a surprise in Chester, losing 6-4 to Linwood Hibernians. The Inquirer reported on Feb. 1, “The weather conditions were extremely bad and the shooting by both teams was surprisingly good taking everything into consideration.” Linwood center forward Hewitt finished the day with a hat trick. At Wilmington’s Shellpot Park, home side Windsors and the visiting Fairhill Wanderers each played a man down to a 1-1 draw.

In third division play, Disston Reserves hosted Centenary. While the weather conditions “were anything but favorable for the playing of soccer,” both sides were at full strength for a 2-2 draw.

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