Philadelphia-area teams were an ever-present force in the American Cup throughout the 1910s. From 1910 through 1920, Philadelphia-area teams would appear in nine American Cup finals, winning the final six times.
1913 marked the first time the American Cup final was held in Philadelphia. And, as the Fates would have it, a Philadelphia team, Tacony FC, who had won the tournament in 1910, would be competing in the final. Little did anyone know that the final wouldn’t be finished in Philadelphia.
The tournament format had been organized for the first time in 1913 into district competition in an effort to reduce the travel time and expenses of participating clubs. At least six Philadelphia teams competed in the first round with Collingwood defeating Victors 3–2, Tacony topping Wissinoming 2–0, and Thistle edging past Tennyson 1–0. In the second round, Philadelphia Hibernian brushed past Collingwood with an emphatic 6–1 victory. (Records are incomplete and it is unclear if Hibernian were given a bye in the first round.)
The second round match up between Tacony and Thistle went to two games after the first one, played at Tacony Ballpark at State Road and Unruh Street on Nov. 30, 1912, ended in a scoreless draw. Tacony, the Pennsylvania League champions, dominated the first half of play but turned over the momentum to Thistle in the second half.
The second game was played a week later at Washington Park at 25th and Allegheny. Tacony scored twice in the first eight minutes of the match and never looked back. While Thistle got a goal back just before the end of the first half, Tacony added two more goals in the second to finish the 4–1 winners.
Hibernian’s emphatic form continued when they hosted Newark Caledonians on Dec. 28 at their home grounds at Second and Allegheny, defeating the visitors 4–0. The game was not without controversy. Winter was in full swing and the Inquirer noted in their Dec. 29 match report that Newark had only been able to roundup six of its regular players for the trip to Philadelphia “on account of the Hibernian’s not giving them ample notice that the game would be played,” according to the Newark manager McHardy. The visitors were able to find three last minute substitutes “and were only able to garner ten men by calling upon one of their ticket collectors.” The Newark manager also protested that the field was in no condition to play but the ref decided otherwise.
The Inquirer reported, “Taking the game in its entirety there was only one team in it, that being the Hibernians, who would have in all likelihood added to their account if the footing had been safer for the players to take chances, though the ground was in excellent shape when taking into consideration that they only had a couple of days to clear it of the recent snow.”
Tacony were scheduled to play Jersey City away on Dec. 29 but that game was postponed, the Inquirer reported, “on account of the Jersey grounds being covered with seven inches of snow.” When the teams met on Jan. 5, 1913, the Inquirer described it as “one of the hardest and most exciting played here…one of those old time cup games which has made the English Cup tourney one of the features of the English soccer season.” Two minutes before the final whistle, Tacony’s “crack inside left” Miller scored the sole goal of the match.
It would be Philadelphia Hibernian against Tacony in the semifinal and the first time in the history of the tournament that two local teams would face off in the penultimate round.
In Pennsylvania League play, Hibs, who had appeared in the 1911 American Cup final, was on it’s way to unseating Tacony as league champion, an effort that was aided by their victory over them on Jan. 11 to take the lead in the standings for the first time in the 1912-13 season. While Tacony had started slow in league play—Hector McDonald, their captain and most important player was recovering from a knee injury that had prevented him from playing most of the season—their form as evidenced by their American Cup play, was improving. By the time the two team’s met on March 15, Hibernian’s claim on the Pennsylvania League title was unassailable and with the team alive in both the Philadelphia Challenge Cup and American Cup tournaments, its supporters were beginning to entertain thoughts of a possible triple.
The two teams met on a heavy pitch at Tacony Ballpark after heavy rains had fallen just hours before the kickoff. Some 34 minutes after the opening whistle, Hibernian scored when inside right Gallagher’s header from a Tommy Swords cross rebounded off the bar to be finished by outside left Gaynor. But Tacony did not back down and, despite having the wind at their backs, Hibernian could not find the net again.
Tacony evened the score right at the start of the second half when center forward Owen finished a fine pass from outside left Andrews. After missing a chance to take the lead when the penalty kick they were awarded went wide of the mark, Tacony scored the game winner in the 71st minute, this time from the foot of Owens.
Hibernian had been the favorites but, as the Inquirer reported, “cup games have the habit of upsetting the dopesters.” The report concluded, “There was not the least doubt which was the better eleven…Tacony played the cleverer combination and it is a question if a finer exhibition of soccer has been seen on any grounds this season, which is all the more creditable to both teams, especially when taking into account that so much was at stake.”
Final to be played in Philadelphia, Hibs protest quashed
Efforts to hold the 1913 final in Philadelphia were concentrated after the all-Philadelphia semifinal. Reported the Inquirer on March 17, “The local delegates of the AFA have worked hard with a view of having the blue ribbon classic of soccerdom played in this berg.” The American Football Association, the organizers of the American Cup tournament, was headquartered in Newark, where the Cup final was typically staged, and with many of the association’s member clubs located in the Northern New Jersey, West Hudson area, the odds were stacked against Philadelphia being named host. A decision would be made at a special AFA meeting in Newark on March 22.
Also to be decided at that meeting would be a protest lodged by Hibernian against Tacony for fielding James Richardson, formerly of Philadelphia Electrics, in the semifinal. Richardson was one of three players brought in by Tacony—the others were Andrews, also of the Electrics, and Kennedy of the Pennsylvania and Reading Athletic Association—a move which was allowed under the association rules so long as a player’s original team had not entered the tournament. Hibernian argued that Richardson had played under a false name for the Electrics during a match back in September and that he had joined Tacony before his amateur status had been re-instated. The AFA ruled against this claim.
But Hibernian could take some solace from the other decision from the meeting. While Tacony’s delegate had offered the club’s grounds for free and to help in defraying the travel costs of their opponent, it was decided that the Hibernian grounds at Second and Allegheny could accommodate a larger crowd. The decision was reached “only after great deliberation,” the Inquirer reported on March 24. In the end, Philadelphia was awarded the final “on account of the representatives at a previous meeting declaring in favor of this city if one of the local teams was left in the final.”
The American Cup final, round one
Tacony would face Paterson True Blues on April 12. Founded in 1887, the True Blues had long been one of the dominant American teams, having previously won the American cup in 1896 and 1909; 1913 would be their sixth appearance in the final.
The Philadelphia delegates had promised a large crowd, but it was raining heavily when play commenced and only “1000 odd spectators who braved the elements” were on hand, including some 250 who had traveled by train with the True Blues from Paterson. The Inquirer reported on April 13, “The ground was in fairly good shape at the beginning of the game, but it chopped up considerably and made the footing bad for the players, who, nevertheless, did not seem to mind the conditions, and in consequence play was fast and exciting all during the ninety minutes.”
Tacony opened the scoring eight minutes after the kickoff thanks to “a peach” from Bobby Morrison. Owens made it 2–0 just before the end of the half. Tacony had dominated the first half but the True Blues refused to fold. After a ten minute spell of of chances in front of the Tacony goal, Neil Clarke got a goal back for Paterson twenty-five minutes into the second half. The Inquirer reported, “Encouraged by this success the Blues went about their work with a vim to tie up the score.” Three minutes before the final whistle Neilson broke through the Tacony defense to net the equalizer. “The play which led to the score came so quickly,” said the Inquirer match report, “that the spectators hardly realized what had happened, and several had left the grounds under the impression that the locals had the game cinched.”
The replay would take place on the same grounds one week later.
The American Cup final, part two
Conditions for the April 19 replay were much improved, “the grounds in great shape on account of the Hibernian management having a steam roller on them.” But, the Inquirer reported on April 20 that neither side was able to take advantage of the improved conditions, hampered as they were by new game ball “as lively as a cricket” and “a strong wind that blew across the field.”
After a scoreless first half, Tacony took the lead when a penalty kick was awarded for a hand ball. Once again, the True Blues hammered at Tacony’s defense until, in the last minute of play, Clark equalized.
The Inquirer declared, “If anything, Tacony should have won the game, for they had at least four chances of adding to their account,” including another hand ball that was waived off by the referee. In the end, though, the Inquirer concluded, “Taking the run of the game in its entirety, there was little if anything to choose between the teams and a draw about gives a fair reflection of the play.”
The American Cup final, part three
The second replay was scheduled for April 27 and the location was moved to Morris Park in Newark. The Inquirer match report on April 28 said fair conditions meant a record crowd of 5,000 was on hand: “the ground was as hard as a rock, and although the elements were threatening at times during the match, there as not a drop of rain to mar the pleasure of the spectators, there being an overflow of the fair sex, who, with their yellow and blue and red flags, the respective colors of the two teams, they helped to give a little color to the proceedings.”
Now the visitors, Tacony got off to a quick start, scoring from a corner kick seven minutes after the opening whistle. The Inquirer reported, “this looked rosy for the Philadelphians gaining such an early lead, but the players seemed to be content with this lead and failed to add to their account before the interval with a strong wind in their favor.”
The True Blues equalized just after the start of the second half when a free kick, “which seemed to take the Philadelphians by surprise, at the quickness it was executed,” was given just outside of the box. Six minutes later, the Patersons took the lead when a penalty kick was given for a hand ball.
While Tacony fought back furiously, the could not find the equalizer as the True Blues “played a regular cup tie game in the closing minutes when Tacony were bombarding their goal by booting the ball over the side lines and out of the field at every opportunity with a view of eating up time.” While the Inquirer’s match report focused a great deal on some questionable officiating and the “rough house tactics” of the True Blues, it concluded that, “Although the Blues only had the luck to win by a penalty, they, nevertheless on the run of play, were entitled to the spoils for they made the most of their opportunities.”
For Tacony, all that was missing from the result were “the usual funeral cards which are always on hand at an English cup final to console the vanquished.” Tacony would recover from the loss to fight its way to the 1914 American Cup final where they would face Bethlehem FC.