April 29, 1979. A landmark moment for professional sports in the medium-sized city on the mid-eastern edge of the state, then, as a noteworthy crowd of 7,487 fans fill the bowl that was the old Allentown School District Stadium to witness the fledgling PENNSYLVANIA STONERS take on the defending American Soccer League champions, the New York Apollos. Although the would-be A.S.L. Coach of the Year WILLIE EHRLICH’s side put up a good fight, the team from the Empire State secures triumph by the minumum scoreline.
The resilient Stoners, however, will bounce back quickly to record the first-ever victory in front of the home folk just a few days later at the beginning of May. KEITH TOZER, fresh from his inaugural American pro soccer adventure with the Cincinnati Kids of the Major Indoor Soccer League, finds the back of the net for Pennsylvania shortly into the second half against the New York Eagles, therefore, becomes the first Stoner to ever score a goal at the A.S.D. Stadium. And, thus, Ehrlich’s squad registers the franchise’s first of what will be many, many triumphs on home soil in the seasons to follow.
KEITH TOZER, Cincinnati Kids (MISL)
The Pennsylvania Stoners strenghtened the attack with the addition of former Clemson University star striker CHRISTIAN NWOKOCHA, who had opened the 1979 campaign with the Tulsa Roughnecks in the rival (and richer) North American Soccer League, after first seven A.S.L. games had already passed. The youthful Nigerian was able to elevate the attack and would finish as the first ever top shot in Stoners history with 13 goals in 21 league contests. Nwokocha also combined well with STEVE LONG, who scored 10 goals and added six assists while appearing in all 28 A.S.L. games.
American Soccer League – 1979 goal-scoring chart
15 goals … Poli GARCIA, California Sunshine
15 goals … Joey FINK, California Sunshine
14 goals … Ian FILBY, Sacramento Gold
13 goals … Christian NWOKOCHA, Pennsylvania Stoners
13 goals … Ron WIGG, Columbus Magic
12 goals … Andy CHAPMAN, California Sunshine
12 goals … Colin MCLOUCKLAN, Indianapolis Daredevils
A third place finish (13 wins, 10 losses, 5 draws) in the six-team Eastern Division was enough to earn Ehrlich’s expansion side an American Soccer League playoff appearance at the very first attempt and so the Pennsylvania Stoners took to the road for a one-game showdown with the second-placed New York Eagles squad (14 wins, 7 losses, 7 draws) in the state capital of Albany.
The Eagles went out in front first but the visitors were able to rally for two goals inside the final twenty minutes, with Nwokocha earning the assist on both occasions. ORMAND CUMMINS leveled matters in the 72nd minute before midfield PAUL DESBOIS was able to provide the Pennsylvania Stoners the triumph by finding the back of the net with less than seven minutes to play. A first playoff victory at the very first try for Ehrlich’s troops, then.
Pennsylvania Stoners midfielder BLAZ STIMAC (right), who was a two-time little All-America at tiny East Stroudsburg State College in northeastern Pennsylvania before turning professional with the Cleveland Force for the 1978/79 Major Indoor Soccer League campaign, races for the ball with Columbus Magic midfielder RAY SCHNETTGOECKE (4) during an American Soccer League match at the Franklin County Stadium in 1979.