Key figure in growth of soccer in city
Parents waited in front of the Squirrel Hill library to sign their kids up for a chance to play a sport that had yet to take off in Pittsburgh.
The year was 1981, and while the sport was growing in popularity in the suburbs, youth soccer in Pittsburgh started to take hold under the direction of Larry Solomon and with the help of many other volunteers, coaches, players, referees and parents.
Mr. Solomon, who died at his home Tuesday at the age of 79, was born in Pittsburgh and founded the Pittsburgh Youth Dynamo soccer club in 1981. It was Pittsburgh's first soccer club.
Mr. Solomon started his involvement with the sport when his son, Brett, first took interest, and his relationship with soccer included six years as Dynamo president, 25 years as a United States Soccer Federation referee, 22 years as a PIAA referee and several years as a coach. What started as driving around the city picking up enough kids to field a team led to a bustling league that has been around for nearly 35 years.
“There was very little soccer in the city itself,” said Steve Beckmann, who met Mr. Solomon when Mr. Beckmann signed his sons up for soccer that first day at the library. The two struck up a friendship right away, with Mr. Beckmann stepping in as the Dynamo’s recreation commissioner and later coaching the travel team. “We kept going to the city council meetings until they funded city school soccer, so it was the very beginning of soccer here in the city. He was an originator of sorts.”
Despite playing football and baseball and running track at Allderdice High School, Mr. Solomon began playing soccer in Pittsburgh adult leagues in his 40s.
His athleticism helped make up for a lack of touch on his passes, a detail his friends used to kid him about as they competed together through the adult league ranks. Mr. Solomon, who attended the Art Institute of Pittsburgh and worked at Warner Brothers theaters in the city, stopped playing soccer nine years ago but continued to golf regularly.
“Larry had a good perspective on history with the sport in Western Pennsylvania,” said PA West Soccer executive director Tim McCoy.
Mr. Solomon served as the PA West Soccer Association president for eight years and helped grow the sport by sharing what he learned at youth conferences with other coaches and committee members.
“He knew just about everybody,” Mr. McCoy said. “He served at a time where our state association grew pretty significantly in a fairly short period of time. In a 10-year period we went from about 35,000 youth players to close to 50,000 youth players.”
Mr. Solomon is survived by his son, Brett of Pittsburgh; daughter-in-law, Sheila; sister, Barbara Rose of Boca Raton, Fla.; and two granddaughters.
Services were held Thursday.