Allentown Asantehene Leads Pennsylvania Stoners To ASL Title

GEORGE GORLEKU (3), seen here in the shirt of Eastern Illinois University, was chosen an NCAA First Team All-America defender in both 1976 and 1978 before who graduating with a degree in Business. The former sweeper, who is presently hailed as the most decorated soccer player in the school’s history by the official website of the E.I.U. athtletic department, was also selected to the Second Team as a freshman in 1975 and tabbed as Honorable Mention in 1977. Gorleku, as one might imagine of an always rare four-year All-America, is enshrined in the school’s athletic Hall of Fame.

It was, as the contemporary musical group Styx used to sing back then, the best of times in the so-called City With No Limits. The storied PENNSYLVANIA STONERS, brainchild of the innovative Hungarian immigrant and former European professional footballer WILLIE EHRLICH, certainly were rocking the old Allentown School District Stadium over in the West End section. In only their second year of existance and employing a spirited squad almost exclusively made up of American college players, the remarkable Stoners would romp to the very best record in the eight-team American Soccer League during that memorable summer of 1980.

It was a stingy Stoners defense that conceded the fewest goals in the entire circuit (29 in 28 matches) with accomplished goalkeeper SCOTT MANNING (State University of New York-Cortland) as well as rock-solid JEFF TIPPING (Hartwick College) and North American Soccer League castoff KEN MCDONALD (Penn State University) all featuring prominently. The anchor of the Stoners backline that year, however, was unquestionably former Eastern Illinois University standout sweeper GEORGE GORLEKU, a native of Ghana whom Ehrlich had wisely snapped up and brought to Allentown after the demise of the Indianapolis Daredevils at the close of the 1979 A.S.L. campaign. Gorleku, who had been drafted by the Seattle Sounders of the NASL — a team stuffed full of former English and Scottish professionals — but opted to sign elsewhere coming out of college, would more than validate this decision by the two-time A.S.L. Coach of the Year.

BOB EHRLICH, the Pennsylvania Stoners local legend from Behtlehem’s Liberty High School and former Penn State University midfielder on the 1980 A.S.L. champion squad, spoke highly of Gorleku’s defensive abilities, “Whenever he took the ball from an opponent, it looked like it was his ball to begin with and the other guy was trying to take it from him!”


1980 PENNSYLVANIA STONERS … A.S.L. Most Valuable Player GEORGE GORLEKU is fifth from right in the back row.

There is an old school of thought that says it is the greatest players who save their best performances for the biggest matches. Gorleku surely did much to subscribe to this philosophy, then, after being named the A.S.L. Most Valuable Player shortly after the regular season ended. The New York United had been summarily dispatched in the semifinals as the Pennsylvania Stoners rolled into the league title game.

It was a crowd of 7,723 that had congregated at the old ASD Stadium in the West End of Allentown to watch the hometown team take on the visiting Sacramento Gold for the rights to A.S.L. supremacy on a mid-September night. The title contest had figured to be a battle between the league’s two top goaltenders but a throw-in had produced a loose ball in the Sacramento defensive third and the Stoners sweeper pounced. Gorleku’s booming shot from distance eluded Sacramento’s distinguished goalkeeper TOM REYNOLDS (himself a future Pennsylvania Stoners player) and tucked into the upper left hand corner of the net to break a scoreless deadlock.

Ehrlich’s team were well on its way to its finest hour … ironically enough, it was Gorleku who had previously scored a second half game-winning-goal when the Sacramento Gold and Pennsylvania Stoners had met earlier in the year out on the West Coast right around the annual July Fourth holiday, as well.


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