30th Anniversary

Written by Michael Lewis

Today, the Long Island Rough Riders will start the celebration of our 30th season. The team began kicking the ball around with its men’s and women’s teams in 1994. In our first look back at the Rough Riders’ history, we take you back to our very first game against the North Jersey Imperials on April 9, 1994.

The Long Island Rough Riders’ first venture into the world of professional soccer did not exactly go to plan.

In their first game as a team, they dropped a 3-1 decision at the North Jersey Imperials in the U.S. Interregional Soccer League opener for both sides in North Bergen, N.J. on Saturday, April 9, 1994.

An estimated crowd of 650 at North Hudson Park watched former Adelphi University standout Duane Robinson scored the first two goals and set up the third for the home side as Long Island endured a rough start to its inaugural season.

“We showed a lot of inexperience,” Rough Riders head coach Alfonso Mondelo said. “We tried to stay with him [Robinson], but there were obviously some defensive breakdowns that allowed him to get free.”

Two minutes into the second half, Robinson set up Sean Crowley for a goal past goalkeeper Chico Mieles, before Greg Bajek took the ball from sweeper Adrian Gaitan and assisted on the forward’s first tally of the night in the 60th minute.

Chris Armas, a former Adelphi standout himself, scored the first goal in Rough Riders’ history on a penalty kick in the 64th minute. He broke through two defenders and was taken down in the box. Armas converted his spot kick past the outstretched arms goalkeeper Mark Rakauskas, slicing the lead in half.

In the 74th minute, the Rough Riders had a golden opportunity to score as Paul Riley found himself in a 1 v 1 situation with Rakauskas, but his shot sailed over the crossbar.

“When you get a chance like that, you have to put it away,” Riley said. “That could have easily been the turning point in the game.”

Two minutes later, Robinson gave the Imperials some breathing room by chipping the ball into an unattended net in the 76th minute.

“It was fun,” said Robinson, who hadn’t played pro soccer in three years, since performing with the Penn-Jersey Spirit (American Professional Soccer League). “I’ll tell you, getting back in soccer and doing this in my first game, the feeling I have is unbelievable.”

At the time, Robinson was teaching in Edison Township and was pursuing a doctorate in sports management at Temple University.

Added Imperials head coach Mark Shearer: “He was outstanding. He’s got incredible strength, shouldering people off the ball, and has great pace.”

The Rough Riders would have to wait two weeks before playing their franchise home opener against the Detroit Wheels at Mitchel Athletic Complex in Uniondale, N.Y. on Saturday, April 23.


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