Lassiter, Roy 1969–
Roy Lassiter 1969–
Professional soccer player
Roy Lassiter was born on March 9, 1969 in Washington, D.C. and grew up to be one of the United States’ most recognizable soccer players. The man who would star in his own Nike commercial started out humbly, not even being heavily recruited by the traditional college soccer powers. After high school he attended Lees McRae Junior College and was named Junior College All-American on the strength of a 21-goal season. He transferred to North Carolina State and made an immediate impact. In 1990 he led the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) in goals scored and points with 40 and was named to the All-Conference team. In his senior year, he scored 22 goals in 23 games. He was named All-Conference again, but because there was no professional soccer league in the United States at the time, his only options for a career in his sport were to play in a league abroad or to make the US National Team.
After graduating from college, Lassiter pinned all his hopes on making the U.S. squad; and the high-flying forward seemed to have a good chance. During one of his first practices, though, Lassiter was tackled from behind and his left ankle was broken. His chances with the National Team and perhaps his career in soccer were over.
A Brush with the Law
Not only did Lassiter break his ankle in the spring of 1992, his parents also divorced. Now he found himself with no job and plenty of time on his hands. The young man who suddenly had no career and very little guidance at home began to associate himself with the wrong kind of friends—spending his time partying and hanging out. In 1990, Lassiter had pleaded guilty to misdemeanors for breaking and entering, larceny, and credit card fraud. After a short time of idleness, Lassiter was committing crimes again. Lassiter and separate acquaintances broke into a house on May 23 and then another on July 8, 1992. The value of what Lassiter stole added up to $26,500. Though Lassiter’s life seemed to be on the slide, physically he was improving and soon after the July robbery he left the country to play soccer in the Costa Rican First Division. Lassiter played the 1992-93 season in Turrialba, the 1993-94 season with Carmelita, and the 1994-95 season with Alajuela. In his third season in Costa Rica, Lassiter led his team to a second-place finish and scored 17 goals. He was named “Foreigner
At a Glance…
Born Roy Lassiter, March 9, 1969 in Washington, D.C.; married with a son: Ariel Daniel; Education: Graduated in 1992 from North Carolina State.
Career: Starred at North Carolina State, 1989-91; played in Costa Rican First Division, 1992-92, 1994-95; began career in Major League Soccer (MLS) with the Tampa Bay Mutiny, 1996; traded to D.C. United, 1998; traded to the Miami Fusion, 1999.
Awards: Junior College All-American, 1988; All-Atlantic Coast Conference, 1990-91; named “Foreigner of the Year” in the Costa Rican First Division, 1995; MLS Golden Boot Award, MLS AT&T Best Eleven, 1996; MVP of CONCACAF Champions Cup, 1998; tied for the MLS lead in goals scored, 1999; leads MLS in career goals scored, 1996-99; made 29 appearances with three goals for U.S. National Team, 1992-99.
Addresses: Residence —Raleigh, N.C.; Office —c/o The Miami Fusion, 2200 W. Commercial Boulevard, Suite 104, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33309.
of the Year” in Costa Rica. His success abroad was improving his game so that he was finally receiving attention on the U.S. National Team. He was also receiving attention from the police. After a detective read about Lassiter’s game-winning goal in an international competition, the detective arrested him when he returned to the United States on August 8, 1995. He missed his first court date and was forced to surrender his passport. Lassiter, who was going to spend the 1995-96 season with the Brazilian club Santos, was forced to give up his chance to play for the legendary Brazilian side. A day after Lassiter scored the game-winning goal for the United States in a match against Saudi Arabia, he was sentenced to a month in jail. He was also sentenced to a ten-year suspended prison sentence, 200 hours of community service, a $500 restitution fine, and a $1,600 fine for court costs. The sentence was particularly embarrassing to Lassiter as he changed immensely in three years. His career was going along well, he had married and had a son by this time, and he had become a born-again Christian. His defense attorney Spurgeon Fields told the Associated Press: “He [Lassiterl is extremely remorseful. He has never denied doing this. It was just one of those things where he knew he had done wrong, but had changed his way of life and wanted to get this behind him.”
Coming to America
His legal problems behind him, Lassiter stayed in his home country to join the fledgling American soccer league—Major League Soccer (MLS). He was signed by the Tampa Bay Mutiny. In his first season with the club, Lassiter led MLS in scoring with 27 goals in 30 games. Besides winning the Golden Boot as the league’s top scorer, Lassiter received international recognition after the season when he was loaned to Genoa, a club in Italy’s Seria B. After playing only four games in Italy, Lassiter returned to the United States and signed a three-year deal with the Mutiny, which made him one of the league’s highest-paid players. Lassiter had another productive season for Tampa Bay in 1997 scoring ten goals in 24 games, but the following season, Lassiter seemed to hit the wall. After six games with Tampa Bay in 1998, he had no goals. The club, frustrated with its star’s lack of production, traded him to league-dynasty D.C. United. In his first game with his newteam, Lassiter scored his first goal of the season. He would score in 12 of his first 15 games with his new team including a hat trick against D.C. rival, the Chicago Fire. Lassiter’s then coach Bruce Arena commented on his new forward’s impact on the team for Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl: “Here you have a black American born in Washington, D.C., who comes back and happens to be fluent in Spanish. Plus he’s been scoring goals. If we had to write a job description for a forward to match up with us, he’d fit the bill.”
Late in the 1998 season, Lassiter again made his mark on the international scene in the CONCACAF Champions Cup. In addition to its regular season in MLS, D.C. United was competing in an international tournament for championship clubs throughout North America, Latin America, and the Caribbean. Lassiter drove his team to become the first U.S. club to ever win the CONCACAF Championship Cup. In the quarterfinals against Joe Public of Trinadad and Tobago Lassiter scored four goals. In the semifinals of the competition, Lassiter scored both his team’s goals as United defeated CSD Leon of Mexico 2-0. After D.C. United defeated Mexican champion CD Tolvea for the final victory, Lassiter was named the Most Valuable Player of the Champions Cup. Back in the US, Lassiter helped his team reach the MLS Championship Series, but the team lost to the Chicago Fire.
In 1999, Lassiter had another standout year. The 30-year-old forward kept up his scorching scoring pace and finished the season tied for the first in goals (18). In the playoffs, Lassiter tallied three goals and one assist and D.C. United won its third MLS Cup in four years. But the season did not end on a happy note for Lassiter. Midway through the 1999 campaign, D.C. United made a trade with the Miami Fusion. The Washington, D.C.—based team sent a current player, a draft pick, and a player to be named later to Miami. All season Lassiter was rumored to be that player to be named later. And he was. After United’s MLS Cup victory, Lassiter was shipped to the Fusion on November 23. The trade left a bitter taste as Lassiter explained to Brook Tunstall of the Washington Times: “When the deal first went down and I heard my name came up, I went to (D.C. United management) and they said not to worry, that I wasn’t going anywhere. But I kept hearing the rumors, and I asked them again about two or three weeks ago and they wouldn’t tell me anything. They lied to me. They knew all along they were going to trade me and they lied.” After the trade, Lassiter even said that he might not report to Miami unless he receives a raise in line with his talents—which are prodigious. Though his status for the 2000 season was up in the air, his place as one of the most productive and exciting players in American soccer history is secure. At the end of the 1999 season, Lassiter had scored 73 goals and added 25 assists in his four seasons in MLS. He holds the league record in all-time goals and points (171), has appeared in three MLS All-Star games, and was named to the AT&T “Best 11” Team after the 1997 season.
Sports Illustrated, August 3, 1998.
The Sporting News, August 14, 1998.
The Washington Times, November 25, 1999.
Additional material for this entry was found on the worldwide web at www.dcinited.com/theteam/players/Iassiter.htm.
—Michael J. Watkins
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