1992 – Around the World and Close to Home
Czechoslovakia separates into the Czech Republic and Slovakia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina gets its independence, then devolves into war amid ethnic tensions. President George W. Bush and Russian leader Boris Yeltsin proclaim the Cold War ended. Violence erupts in Los Angeles following the acquittal of four police officers in the beating of Rodney King, Bill Clinton defeats incumbent George Bush for the presidency, compact discs surpass cassette tapes as the preferred medium for recorded music, and Johnny Carson signs off as host of The Tonight Show. The Japanese owner of Nintendo joins local investors in buying the Seattle Mariners and keeping them from moving to Florida, Seattle native Fred Couples wins the Masters, Seattle-based department store Frederick & Nelson goes out of business, and the Longacres racetrack in Renton closes after 59 years, the land sold to Boeing.
The Dark Age Begins
Its arrival had been foretold for a dozen years. Nevertheless, when the curtain finally dropped on American professional soccer, the gloom was both profound and palpable. Just when the nation was producing more and more talented players than ever, suddenly there was nowhere for them to domestically make a decent wage.
In 1992, Puget Sound lost its third professional franchise in nine years. On the heels of the Seattle Sounders and FC Seattle, the Tacoma Stars were shuttered, for the second time, in fact. Going into the summer months, there was no local professional men’s team for the first time in 18 years.
Nine years earlier, there had been three viable national leagues, albeit one exclusively indoor 6v6. A generation of kids around western Washington grew up attending games among the crowds at Memorial Stadium, the Kingdome, Tacoma Dome and, in the case of the short-lived Tacoma Tides, Cheney Stadium. They watched and learned and got excited about a future, either watching or perhaps even signing for the hometown team.
In 1992, Kasey Keller was off to London and his first contract at Millwall, and Brent Goulet was establishing himself in Germany. Domestically, top local players would scramble to make ends meet. Chance Fry spent summers with the San Francisco Bay Blackhawks, one of the remaining APSL franchises. Peter Hattrup and Eddie Henderson focused on indoor, playing in the NPSL (National Professional Soccer League) for Kansas City and Milwaukee, respectively, and working youth camps in the summers.
There had never been exorbitant salaries for U.S. players. This was more about playing out the string having fun and staying sharp for that time when the pro leagues would rise once more. That desire would result in the rise of senior amateur teams stocked with pro-caliber talent. Locally, many congregated with FTI (sponsored by Tukwila’s Fatigue Technology Inc.), which dominated the Greater Seattle Soccer League in the early Nineties. Soon, though, FTI had competition, such as Soccer West, Lake City Hawks and then Seattle Hibernian Saints.
It can also be argued that during this Dark Age, college programs became much more robust. There were now full-time coaches at several universities, full complements of scholarships at Washington (men and women) and Washington State, and increasing out-of-region travel. As it so happened, some of the most special collegiate players and teams were spawned during that era.