Key fig­ure in growth of soc­cer in city

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - - NEWS OBITUARIES - By Au­drey Sny­der Au­drey Sny­der: as­ny­[email protected] and Twit­ter: @aud­sny­der4.

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.

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