Spirit goes for speed, signs Wright for season

August 04, 1993|By Doug Brown | Doug Brown,Staff Writer

One of the National Professional Soccer League's most explosive scorers has switched to the Spirit.

The club yesterday unveiled free agent Paul Wright, who is on loan from the Los Angeles Salsa of the outdoor American Professional Soccer League. He signed a one-year contract.

Wright, 24, spent part of the last indoor season with the NPSL's Milwaukee Wave, accumulating 104 points in 25 games. The Wave was 3-11 when he arrived and 14-12 thereafter. During one stretch, Wright scored three or more goals in six straight games and, despite missing the first 14 games, finished second on the team in scoring.

"He's the quickest indoor player I've ever seen," said Spirit coach Kenny Cooper. "His first two steps are explosive. The only thing I've seen quicker than Paul is the Concord."

Born in London, Wright moved with his family to Modesto, Calif., when he was 10. He became a pro at 18 and starred for four seasons with the San Diego Sockers of the now-defunct Major Soccer League.

Wright leads the APSL in scoring with nine goals and five assists and is the major reason the Salsa is 10-4 in the seven-team league.

"All teams are trying to figure ways to stop him," said Salsa general manager Rick Davis. "He's a legitimate impact player in that he seems to come up with different ways of scoring goals and creating offensive chances."

Wright will complete the season with the Salsa and then report to Spirit training camp in early October, perhaps a week or two late but, as Cooper says, "in good shape" from the outdoor season.

Cooper has been pursuing Wright for years, admiring the damage he did to the Blast for four seasons and to the Spirit last season.

"He'll be double-teamed a lot, which will create time, space and opportunities for others," Cooper said. "He has been the difference against us in the past. Now he's with us. He'll go from villain to hero overnight."

Sought by other teams, including Milwaukee, Wright chose the Spirit in part because of his disenchantment with the Wave and because he felt he could learn from Cooper.

"I'm young, just turned 24, and I still need to learn," Wright said. "I wasn't enjoying it in Milwaukee, or learning. No hard feelings, but Kenny can teach me. This is simply a better environment and situation for me."

NOTES: The Spirit will open its 40-game season Oct. 29 at the Baltimore Arena. The schedule will be released later this month. The team has sold 1,000 season tickets; last season, it sold 1,100. . . . The Spirit will conduct a mini-camp Sept. 10-12, culminating with an intrasquad scrimmage at the Arena on Sept. 12. It will be part of the team's annual open house.

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