American Division

November 04, 1992|By Doug Brown

Baltimore Spirit

Arena: Baltimore Arena (12,392)

Last season: New franchise

Coach: Kenny Cooper (first year in NPSL; 394-302 in 13 years with Blast of MSL)

Key players: G Cris Vaccaro, a 12-year MSL veteran; Michael King, who had back-to-back 40-plus goal seasons with the MSL's Cleveland Crunch; Rusty Troy, coming off a career-high 44 points with the Blast last year in his fourth pro season; Tim Wittman, a Calvert Hall alum entering his 12th pro season.

Outlook: Based on its third-place finish in the NPSL's 13-team preseason tournament in Dayton, Ohio, last month, the Spirit should be a contender. Its offense appears potent. Keeping key players free of major injuries is imperative. Goran Hunjak, King, Troy and Wittman are seasoned athletes who can score, kill penalties and play defense and midfield.

Buffalo Blizzard

Arena: Memorial Auditorium (16,200), Buffalo, N.Y.

Last season: New franchise

Coach: Trevor Dawkins (first season in NPSL; coached Cleveland of MSL and Canton of NPSL)

Key players: Rudy Pikuzinski, 34, a three-time MVP in the NPSL who played the past two years under Dawkins at Cleveland in the MSL; his brother, Randy Pikuzinski, 27, who was traded to Buffalo by the Chicago Power after scoring 60 points last season.

Outlook: Dawkins is blending young players with veterans like the Pikuzinskis and Carlos Salguero, 35. The Blizzard was 1-5 in the preseason tournament, but its one win was over the defending champion Detroit Rockers. Unless that victory was a true indication, the season could be a struggle.

Canton Invaders

Arena: Canton Civic Center (4,200), Canton, Ohio

Last season: first in division with 24-16 regular-season record; runner-up to Detroit in playoffs.

Coach: Oscar Pisano (first season; was a Canton assistant coach last season)

Key players: Point producers include Kia, a forward returning for his second season after jumping from Tacoma of the MSL, and Gino Diflorio, back with the team after a season with the MSL's Cleveland Crunch. Denzil Antonio was NPSL Defender of the Year two years ago.

Outlook: The NPSL runner-up last season figures to have another strong year. Pisano has a large nucleus of returnees. He's looking for another goal scorer and a defender to round out the team. Goalkeeping could be a problem.

Cleveland Crunch

Arena: CSU Convocation Center (12,493), Solon, Ohio

Last season: First year in NPSL

Coach: Gary Hindley (first season)

Key players: Zoran Karic, who led MSL in scoring (102 points) and assists (63) last season; Hector Marinaro, a four-time MSL All-Star; D George Fernandez, also a four-time MSL All-Star.

Outlook: If Karic and Marinaro stay healthy, the team should be in it until the end.

Dayton Dynamo

Arena: Nutter Center (9,000), Miamisburg, Ohio

Last season: Last in division with 9-31 record; did not make playoffs

Coach: Terry Nicholl (first season)

Key players: G Carlos Pena, an NPSL All-Star; M Tony Bono, MVP of the 1992 NPSL All-Star Game; F Jason Maricle, who was NPSL Rookie of the Year.

Outlook: The Dynamo showed marked improvement with its runner-up finish to the Kansas City Attack in the championship game of the preseason tournament. The addition of Maricle, who played for Tulsa last year, increased the team's scoring punch.

Detroit Rockers

Arena: Cobo Arena (9,561), Detroit

Last season: third in the division with a 22-18 regular-season record; won NPSL championship, beating the Canton Invaders in final

Coach: Brian Tinnion (third season; 44-36 career record)

Key players: Eloy Salgado, No. 6 scorer in NPSL last season with 128 points; free-agent M Pedro DeBrito; Sean Bowers, a leading rookie who scored 104 points.

Outlook: Third in the NPSL in scoring last season, the Rockers were relatively free of injuries and peaked at the right time -- in the playoffs.

Harrisburg Heat

Arena: State Farm Show Arena (7,600), Harrisburg, Pa.

Last season: second in division with 24-16 record; lost to Detroit in first round of playoffs

Coach: Jim Pollihan (second year; 24-16 career record)

Key players: F Franklin McIntosh, No. 3 scorer in NPSL with 130 points; F Mark Pulisic, who scored 35 goals; Joe Mallia, second-rated goalie in NPSL.

Outlook: The expansion Heat surprised the league with second-place finish. Pollihan, a former Blast assistant, has the Heat playing good defense. The offense focuses on McIntosh, one of the NPSL's top players.

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