Dale Mitchell returns tonight to the city he captivated the past four years with his magical scoring touch.
He is going to Kansas City, Mo., with the Baltimore Blast to plaagainst the Comets, something he never dreamed 10 months ago would happen.
Mitchell wasn't just another sports hero in Kansas City. He was legend on and off the field.
Kansas City fans loved his wholesome, all-American image anrugged good looks. He was a perfect fit for Middle America, so much so that Comets owner Chris Clouser told Mitchell last January not to hesitate to buy a home in the city.
"Your future is here," Clouser said. "As long as there's a team iKansas City, you'll be here."
Mitchell's future in Kansas City lasted eight months before hwas traded to the Blast for Carl Valentine on Aug. 20.
Mitchell filed a grievance against the Comets and Clousersaying the owner induced him to sign a contract in July with oral promises worth $18,000 in the form of commercials and endorsements, then traded him to Baltimore, which had no knowledge of those fringe benefits.
Mitchell asked arbitrator George Nicolau to declare him a freagent, but the grievance was turned down.
That ruling upheld the Mitchell-for-Valentine trade and ended aera in Kansas City sports. In 4 1/2 seasons with the Comets, Mitchell scored 212
goals and had 147 assists. He ranks sixth on the Major Soccer League's all-time scoring list (319 goals, 206 assists for 525 points).
Mitchell, who played 2 1/2 seasons for the Tacoma Stars, needjust 18 points to pass former Blast star Stan Stamenkovic for fifth place. Mitchell has scored more goals (229) than any other active player.
"Dale will get a tremendous reception when he takes the field,said Blast coach Kenny Cooper yesterday. "There's no way the people will forget what he did for them. We just want Dale to do for us in Baltimore what he did for Kansas City."
Mitchell said he wasn't as sure.
"I'd like to get this game over with and get on with the season,he said. "Playing the first time against your old team is always bad. It can never be the same again with your former teammates."
He said the primary danger tonight is "trying to do too much."
Cooper said the Blast didn't get the ball to Mitchell quicklenough in the team's opener, an 8-3 road loss to the Wichita Wings.
"There's no big secret to playing with Dale Mitchell," saiCooper. "Just get him the ball, and you'll get it back or he'll score."
Mitchell's wife, Diane, and daughters Danielle, 5, and Kristina, 2will be in the stands tonight at Kemper Arena for the 8:35 game. They remained in Kansas City while Mitchell has been house hunting for two weeks in Baltimore.
* Midfielder Billy Ronson, 5 feet 4, said yesterday that he is ready to play goalkeeper if starter Scoop Stanisic gets injured tonight. "I'd play anywhere," Ronson said. "I just have to concentrate on catching the ball instead of punching it away, like I do when I'm the sixth attacker. Also, I have to cut down the angles."