American soccer writing, history & data.
The Sunbelt Indoor Soccer League was relatively stable between its 1990-91 indoor and 1991 outdoor seasons. Both competitions had 18 teams with only a few changes in the lineups.
After the New Mexico Chiles of the American Professional Soccer League folded following that league's 1990 outdoor season, nine members of that defunct club formed their own company and, with the permission of the original Chiles management, operated the New Mexico SISL franchise as the New Mexico Chiles.
The El Paso Spurs were bought by Enrique Cervantes and renamed the El Paso Patriots. The team brought in former Brazilian men's national team, New York Cosmos and Fort Lauderdale Striker player, Francisco Morinho, as their head coach.
After the 1990-91 indoor season, the Georgia Steamers folded and the Concorde Soccer Club acquired the option on the Atlanta-based franchise. The team was renamed Concorde Quicksilver (often more commonly called the Atlanta Quicksilver). The Permian Basin Shootin' Stars did not play the 1991 outdoor season.
The season began in mid-May of 1991. Prior to the season, on May 10 through May 12, the six teams of the SISL's Tex-Oma Division played in a preseason tournament. The teams played a single round robin group stage with three teams in each group. The results were based off the league's regular point system. The Austin Sockadillos won their group with 12 points over Tulsa Renegades with 10 and Oklahoma City Warriors with 7. The Richardson Rockets won their group with 20 points over the San Antonio Generals with 9 and Memphis Rogues with 3. The tournament final also served as the Region III First Round of the National Challenge Cup (more commonly called the National Open Cup at this point in history). Richardson beat Austin 3-0 to advance in cup play.
A week earlier, the New Mexico Chiles beat the Colorado Comets at Lakewood, Col. 4-2 in the Region IV NOC First Round. On May 11, at Colorado Springs, the Chiles beat the San Jose Oaks 3-0 in the Region IV Semifinals and, a day later, beat the California Strikers 5-0 to win the Region IV NOC Final and advanced the team to the National Semifinals.
On May 25, at Charleston, S.C., the Richardson Rockets beat Datagraphic of Atlanta 2-0 in the Region III Semifinals. Two days later, the Rockets crushed Galveston Norte America 8-1 to win the Region III Final. That win meant the Rockets would meet the New Mexico Chiles in the National Semifinals.
Only a few weeks into the season, Atlanta Express coach and minority owner, Mike Morgan, tendered his resignation due to financial and organizational issues within the club. The Express forfeited their June 2 game against the Nashville Metros due to this management turmoil. Co-owners Jim Seigle and Tommy Turner began looking for new owners of their SISL franchise during the outdoor season.
A number of issues caused problems during the playoffs. The top eight teams made it to the first round which were scheduled as a best-of-three-game series. The Southwest Division winning New Mexico Chiles hosted third place Colorado Comets in the First Round but when the first match was canceled due to wet grounds the second game was turned into a knockout match which the Chiles ultimately 1-0 in a second overtime.
Southwest Division runner-up El Paso Patriots hosted Tex-Oma Division runner-up Fort Worth Kickers. Tied one game each, the series went to a mini-game to determine the winner which the Kickers won 2-1. But El Paso general manager, Ruben Lara, protested the mini-game due to Fort Worth using ineligible players. Under league rules, a player who had accumulated at least 10 points due to yellow cards must sit out the next game with points being carried over into the playoffs. Points assessed to Fort Worth player, Matt McLaughlin, and two El Paso players, Javier Aguilar and Francisco Alatorre, pushed them to the limit prior to the mini-game. Lara sat the El Paso players out for the mini-game but Fort Worth did not sit McLaughlin.
Southeast Division winner Memphis Rogues and Tex-Oma Division winner Richardson Rockets both easily won their first round matchups. The Memphis Rogues were the overall top-seed in the playoffs and were scheduled to face the New Mexico Chiles in the semifinals. Commissioner Marcos decided to make New Mexico the home team because the club led the league in attendance. The Rogues decided to drop out of the playoffs in protest rather than travel to Albuquerque.
Commissioner Francisco Marcos upheld the El Paso protest and sent the Patriots into the semifinals to face the Chiles. Fort Worth then earned the right to face Richardson in the other semifinals due to Memphis being officially disqualified for rules violations.
The New Mexico Chiles and Richardson Rockets won their respective semifinal matchups to setup a one-game SISL championship. On July 28, the week before the SISL playoffs started the Rockets beat New Mexico 1-0 in the National Semifinal of the National Challenge Cup at Goldsmith Stadium in Lewisvile, Texas. On August 10, the Rockets lost in the NCC Final 1-0 to the Brooklyn Italians at Brooklyn College. A week later, the Rockets again beat the Chiles, this time 3-0 before 200 fans at Goldsmith Stadium to win the SISL 1991 outdoor title.
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