The wife and I were looking at a house in Lower Burrell for sale yesterday. We had already ruled it out as a possibility about halfway through but felt we should at least look at everything in the house. We went into a sports themed room and to my utter surprise I saw a fan pennant for the Pittsburgh Spirit.
I thought I was the only one who still had a Spirit pennant in Pittsburgh. Needless to say it was kind of neat to see, and got me thinking about the former teams we've had here in Pittsburgh.
I'm going to write a few more posts in this series, but I figured after seeing the pennant yesterday I should start with the Spirit.
I remember going to a Spirit game when I was a kid. Mind you my sports priorities at the time went Pirates, Steelers and Penguins in that order. Even still, I loved watching any kind of sport and it was a fun afternoon with my dad.
The team was founded in 1978 and was one of the original six members of the Major Indoor Soccer League (MISL). The first season (1978-79) saw head coach Bruno Schwarz oversee a 6-18 season. There wasn't much to be proud about as they oversaw a group of inexperienced players try to find their way in a league that had imported talent from the North American Soccer League (NASL). Sid Nolan was the leading scorer for the Spirit with 44 points (21 goals, 13 assists)
The 1979-80 saw the Spirit start 5-10 under head coach Alex Pringle. They relieved Pringle of his duties and hired Len Bilous who promptly lead the Spirit to a record 13-game winning streak. The team finished second in their division with an 18-14 record and defeated The Buffalo Stallions 5-3 in the first round of the MISL Playoffs. They would fall in round two to the eventual MISL champion New York Arrows. Bilous was named co-coach of the year for his efforts, the only Spirit coach to ever win the award.
1982-83 was a step backwards for the Spirit, as they finished 24-24 and in 5th place in the Eastern division. They failed to qualify for the playoffs. Terlecki had another strong season, finishing 4th in the league in scoring with 105 points (65 goals, 40 assists)
The 1983-84 squad rebounded nicely, posting a 32-16 record and once again filling the role of bridesmaid (second place) in the Eastern division. They would lose to the Cleveland Force in the first round of the playoffs. Midfielder Kevin Maher was named the MISL Rookie of the Year.
1984-85 was a major disappointment for the Spirit. Stan Terlecki returned to the team after one season with the Golden Bay Earthquakes, but he was not able to help the team have much success on the field. He still managed to lead the team in scoring with 71 points (39 goals, 32 assists). This would mark the final season for head coach John Kowalski.
1985-86 would prove to be the final season for the Spirit. Although they finished in last place in the Eastern division, they only finished four games out of first place in an extremely tight Eastern division. Goaltender David Brcic would finish the year by being named to the All-MISL team, the second and final Spirit player to earn that honor in franchise history.
The team folded after the season and became a footnote in Pittsburgh sports history.
Gone but not completely forgotten. Do you have any memories to share of this team? Feel free to share them in the comments below.