Al Miller Has Come Long Way From Ono

Jerry Reigel
Date Published: 
Lebanon Daily News

Local Native Has Philadelphia Atoms Perched Atop Pro Soccer League

PHILADELPHIA — Al "Bosh" Miller, formerly of Ono and Cleona, has come a long way.

The personable Lebanon County native has taken the expansion franchise of the Philadelphia Atoms in the North American Professional Soccer League to the top of its division in its initial season of operation.

Success is nothing new to Al Miller. After graduating from the old Jonestown High School, he journeyed to East Stroudsburg State College where he earned All-American honors twice for his play on the soccer field. His knowledge of the game from the player's point of view has aided him greatly in his coaching career.

He came to the Atoms from Hartwick College, a tiny school in upper New York state which he transformed into a mighty collegiate soccer power house.

In six seasons at the institution in Oneonta, Miller led his teams to 64 wins, against 12 losses and two ties, while playing one of the toughest schedules in the nation.

Hartwick consistently ranked among the top ten collegiate teams in the country. Miller guided his team to the finals of the NCAA Soccer Championship in 1970, only to lose a 1-0 heartbreaker to St. Louis University, perennial king of college soccer.

His job in Philadelphia is as clear and well defined as the standards and goals he possesses for himself and his team. These principles have led him to the top of his profession. He is the only American coach in the European infiltrated NASL. His main objective is to "Americanize" the league.

"Al Miller is the ideal man to coach the Atoms," commented Atoms owner Tom McCloskey, whose construction company built Veterans Stadium and the Spectrum, just to name a few. "He is an excellent coach; enthusiastic, as I am, about the future of pro soccer in America and able to develop the kind of outstanding young American players we're going to build with."

At the moment there are nine players born and raised in America on the club's roster. A handful more have lived in the states for five or more years, and five more are fresh imports from the English and Scottish Leagues, which by the way, are indeed superior to the NASL.

The Atoms have built an outstanding team around this five-man nucleus, and everybody involved is giving the credit to Miller. Traveling quite extensively, Miller swiped his two scorers from Southport, England. Andy "The Flea" Provan is second in the league in scoring, and Jim Fryatt, a seasoned veteran of the English Leagues and head-balls, compliments him well.

The other three imports are making up the stingy defense for the Atoms. They are playing in front of goalkeeper Bob Rigby, who before being sidelined for three weeks with a leg injury has developed into the best netminder in the league. Rigby has from Folsom, Pennsylvania, and attended East Stroudsburg where he gained All-American honors the past two years. Miller made Rigby his first-round draft choice this spring in the NASL draft.

At the present time, the Atoms are perched atop the Eastern Division of the NASL with a record of 7-2-8, also the best record in any division.

Tuesday night at the Vet, Philadelphia hosted the Miami Toros in a game billed as the showdown between the top two teams in the Eastern Division.

It was a classic confrontation. Miami's attack is paced by super-quick Warren Archibald, the NASL's leading scorer with 10 goals and five assists for 25 points. Provan trails him by five points with eight goals and four assists.

In two previous games, both played in Miami, the Atoms and Toros split, Philadelphia won the first game on June 9, blanking Miami 2-0. Miami bounced back on July 7 and defeated the Atoms, 2-1, with Archibald scoring both goals.

This particular game ended in a scoreless draw with Miami settling for the tie by playing a strictly defensive contest. "I'm disappointed in Miami," reflected Miller in the locker room after the game. "They crowded us. They didn't give us any space."

At times Miami dropped as many as nine men in front of the goal to check the potent Atom attack. This strategy prompted the baffled Miller to comment, "I know if my team was behind in the standings by 10 points (which Miami is), I'd sure tell them to go for the win."

Miami managed a few offensive thrusts, but the impregnable Atom defense was perfect. Bob Rigby returned from his injury to record his sixth shutout in 11 games.

The Atoms have one last home game scheduled for August 10 with the St. Louis Stars. The superior record allows a home field advantage in the play-offs for the Atoms, starting August 15. Miller urges all his friends in the Lebanon area to come to the Vet and see soccer at its best.

Miller now resides in North Wales, Pennsylvania, and is married to the former Patricia Smith. They have three children, Karen, 18, Kathy, 14, and John, 2. Al "Bosh" Miller Sr. resides in the Jonestown area with his wife, and is an executive at the Ono Truck Center.