Spirit's Boardman scouts out victories

February 27, 1993|By Doug Brown | Doug Brown,Staff Writer

The Spirit was 13 goals into its first National Professional Soccer League season and things were not going well. The Spirit had only two of those goals.

"This is nothing," Steve Boardman, a defender, yelled to his teammates during the opener. "We can come back, easy."

At that point, Boardman alone on the Spirit knew the true measure of an 11-2 deficit in the NPSL. His teammates were either rookies or refugees from the defunct Major Soccer League, which awarded one point for a goal. In the NPSL, a goal may be worth one, two or even three points.

"Next thing we knew, we had tied the score," the Spirit's Doug Neely said. "We went on to win in overtime."

Boardman smiled at the mention of Neely's recollection of the opener against the Milwaukee Wave.

"I've been on teams that were down 12-0 at halftime," Boardman said of the NPSL scoring system, "and came back and won."

Boardman, 28, who first met Neely when they were freshmen at San Diego State in 1983, is many things to the Spirit.

In coach Kenny Cooper's words, Boardman is "a pillar of strength" and "an unsung hero." In his own words, he is a "scout." In his teammates' estimation, he is an analyst and calming influence.

And, on the Spirit's scoring list, he is the leader in three-point goals with three. The last was a game-winner, breaking a 6-6 tie against the Canton Invaders on Saturday and giving the Spirit a 9-6 victory.

"He has a great shot," Cooper said, as he awaited tonight's game here against the Kansas City Attack. "Hits it a ton and finds the target like radar."

At season's start especially, Cooper depended on Boardman to impart his knowledge of the NPSL to the Spirit. Even the officiating is different from what the players were accustomed to in the MSL.

"We'd get so upset about the refs," Neely said. "Boardy would say, 'Put it out of your mind and just play.' They call them differently in this league. It's rougher. They let things go.' "

Neely said his longtime friend and current roommate is a born analyst. Boardman will analyze anything.

"He'll be sitting watching 'Cheers,' " Neely said. "And he'll say one of the characters should have played the part a different way to be more effective."

On the bench or on the field, Boardman analyzes a game as it goes along. He has Cooper's full blessing.

"I want things to go perfectly," Boardman said. "I talk about myself and others, not in a critical way, but to point out options. What could have been done, not what should have been done."

Even now, with only 11 regular-season games remaining, Boardman serves as the Spirit's scout, based on his four previous years of NPSL experience.

"I know the tendencies of these teams and players," Boardman said.

On Jon Parry, the Kansas City scoring leader the Spirit will face tonight: "Keep the ball from him. Once he gets it, he's dangerous."

On another Attack scoring threat, Brian Haynes: "He's as fast as a gazelle. Don't give him much space."

And on both players, as with most of the scorers he faces: "Play them physical. Deny them the ball."

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