Philadelphia Soccer History

New Year’s Day soccer, 1916

Photo: Viscose FC

Among the games played in Philadelphia on Christmas Day in 1915 were two National Challenge Cup second round replays, one between reigning National Challenge Cup — known today as the US Open Cup — champions Bethlehem Steel and Tacony’s Disston team, the other between Philadelphia’s Hibernians and the Viscose team of Marcus Hook. After drawing 1-1 in their first second round meeting, Bethlehem overpowered Disston at Tacony Ball Park, winning 3-0 in what the Philadelphia Inquirer match report on December 26 described as “one of the poorest played games of the season.”

Playing at Stenton Athletic field at 24th and Westmoreland Streets, the Christmas Day replay between Hibs and Viscose was a back and forth affair that finally ended in a 3-3 draw. The teams would meet again for the third replay on New Year’s Day at Potter’s grounds at Front Street and Erie Avenue with the winner advancing to face Bethlehem in the third round of the tournament.

“More of a mud heap”

Wet weather had meant the second round replays, originally scheduled for December 18, had to be moved to Christmas Day. That wet weather continued in the lead-up to the Hibernian-Viscose replay on New Year’s Day, the Inquirer describing in its match report on January 2, “The grounds were in poor condition, one-half of the field resembling more of a mud heap, which handicapped the players.” Like many of Philadelphia’s parks, baseball was played on the Potter’s grounds in the warmer months. Now, the baseball diamond was a sea of mud.

It was into that quagmire the Hibernians attacked in the first half. Fifteen minutes after the opening whistle, the Hibs were up 1-0 when outside left Davey Scott crossed into the box, the Inquirer reporting inside right Barrett did “the needful with a splendid shot, though credit also belongs to Davy, for he did the major part of the work in taking the ball up the field.”

Soon, Hibernian scored again. The Inquirer reported,

The second goal, which came from the foot of [outside right] Coursey, was one of that kind where it tries a player to find out if he lacks the grit. [Center halfback] Jacovelli had placed the ball in a favorable position, though it was well out of reach of his forwards, but Coursey, coming along with a wet sail, nipped between the two Viscose full-backs while they were studying who should clear the ball, Coursey scoring without the least difficulty. It was a good bit of work on the part of the Hibernians right winger, who proved that he can make his own openings when it is necessary.

The Hibs continued to press and soon scored a third goal, this time from Scott “when the sphere came out of a fierce scrimmage.” Before the end of the half, Hibernians would make it 4-0, the fourth goal coming from left halfback Richardson at the penalty spot after Viscose right back Flannery played the ball with his elbow. Scott had first taken the penalty but it was called back “on account of Scott being too anxious.”

“Brace up”
Philadelphia Inquirer, January 2, 1916

Philadelphia Inquirer, January 2, 1916

Attacking into the mud in the second half with a four-goal deficit to make up, Viscose “appeared to brace up somewhat, for right from the beginning they kept plugging for the Hibernians’ citadel.” Not that the Hibs let up themselves, with Barrett having three shots stopped by Viscose keeper Chew. In the closing minutes of the game the pressure from Viscose finally paid off when inside right Downing “netted with a beautiful shot which was labeled all the way.” The Inquirer described, “It was a well executed goal, in which practically the whole forward line had taken a hand in, Viscose being well deserving of the score.” But that would be the only goal scored by the Marcus Hook team, with Hibernians winning the contest, 4-1.

The Inquirer concluded the Viscose “frontliners did not have the punch when close to goal,” adding, “What gave the Irishmen their victory was the aggressiveness of the forwards. This quintette were always dangerous when they got within shooting distance…and none of them shirked their work, despite the heavy going where the diamond is supposed to be, which resembled a quagmire. In fact, they did their best work when it came to shooting in the mud, for they literally swept through the opposition when they once got going.”

With the victory, Hibernian advanced to face Bethlehem in the third round of the National Challenge Cup. The teams, both members of the city’s professional American League, would meet on Saturday, January 15 at East End Field in Bethlehem.

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