Spirit hopes fans have serious fun with new league Preseason game is free to public

November 01, 1992|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,Staff Writer

The Spirit is to play its first National Professional Soccer

League game here this afternoon.

The 5 p.m. preseason game against the Harrisburg Heat at the Arena is free to the public.

"We want to show people what this game is all about," said Spirit coach Kenny Cooper. "We feel we're going into a new league with new rules and we want people to see it's serious soccer and that we're serious about keeping pro soccer in a great city."

The Spirit opens the NPSL season on the road Friday in Milwaukee and then returns to the Arena for the first home game of the regular season Saturday night against Chicago.

The doors open at 4 p.m., with open seating. And fans who go to the Arena today will be personally greated by the Spirit at the doors. It will be many fans' first opportunity to get a look at local players Jason Dieter (UMBC), Barry Stitch (Towson State) and Steve Nichols (Loyola), as well as some familiar faces from the old Major Soccer League like Rusty Troy, Cris Vacarro, Tim Wittman, Doug Neely, Joe Koziol and Michael King, the Spirit's latest signee.

In Harrisburg, the Spirit has a natural rival. Not only is the team nearby, but it is coached by former Blast player and assistant coach Jim Pollihan, and Angelo Panzetta, a former member of the Blast, is on the Harrisburg roster.

"We don't know what to expect Sunday, but we're all excited about it," Cooper said. "It's a day when we have to wear our hearts on our sleeve and rekindle the spirit of the early '80s."

When Cooper first came to Baltimore as head coach of the Blast in 1980, that team also held an open house party like this and it turned out to be the beginning of a relationship that lasted 12 years.

The Spirit has sold about 1,500 season tickets. Season tickets and mini-plans will be on sale this afternoon.

The team also is asking for a $2 donation that will go to the Spirit Foundation, an organization that benefits local charities.

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