Stankovic may get back into Spirit

January 05, 1994|By Doug Brown | Doug Brown,Staff Writer

Mike Stankovic may make yet another comeback with the Spirit.

Last season, his first as a full-time assistant under coach Kenny Cooper, Stankovic played four games, collecting a goal and three assists, in March when injuries struck the team. He had come back from major knee surgery the year before.

Now, at 37, the former six-time Major Soccer League All-Star may play following Tim Wittman's season-ending knee injury.

"We're looking to add somebody without giving up a player," Cooper said. "We haven't decided yet. Mike's not sure he wants to do it. If he does, it would be on a short-term basis."

Defensive focus missing

Maybe it was Buffalo's arena. Maybe it was just one of those days. Whatever the reason, the Spirit lost its defensive focus.

It was a rare occurrence. The Spirit, after all, has led the National Professional Soccer League in fewest points allowed most of the ZTC season, and its average of 11.7 is more than a half-point lower than the second-place Wichita Wings'.

But Sunday the Spirit was thrashed by the Blizzard, 14-2, in a performance that coach Kenny Cooper characterized as "horrendous." In the past two games, the Spirit has allowed 31 points after giving up 73 in its previous eight, a 9.1 average.

"It was our worst defensive showing of the season," Cooper said. "We didn't close people down. We were always second to the ball. Our decision-making was poor and we turned the ball over too easily."

The lone defender who received a kind word from Cooper was Doug Neely: "Only Doug really played well." That the Spirit is still first in the American Division with a 12-3

record is of no solace to Cooper.

"I didn't like what I saw," Cooper said. "It's not acceptable, first place or not."

He placed no particular blame on rookie Shawn Boehmcke, who filled in for Cris Vaccaro, the league's top-rated goalie who had the flu and a slightly strained knee. Vaccaro will play Friday.

The defeat left the Spirit 0-4 lifetime in Buffalo, where it has been outscored, 52-31. Buffalo and Wichita are the only cities where the Spirit has never won an NPSL game.

Relief from the oppressive Blizzard may be in sight, however. On Friday the Blizzard will visit the Baltimore Arena, where it is 0-4 and has been outscored, 68-35.

Karic on rampage

The Cleveland Crunch's Zoran Karic shared the November Player of the Month award with Vaccaro, but the December award was his alone.

Karic, 32, had 65 points in eight games, raising his league lead to 115 and his assists lead to 46. Karic became the first player in NPSL history to reach 100 points in the first 13 games, breaking teammate Hector Marinaro's record of 15 games set last season.

In 48 games over his one-plus NPSL seasons, Karic has 118 assists. The career record belongs to the Chicago Power's Pato Margetic, who has 241 in 119 games.

Draftees on stage

Spirit draft choices Brian Bates (Virginia), Jeff Causey (Virginia) and Jason Entlich (Virginia Tech) will practice with the team today, tomorrow and Friday. Billy Harte (Loyola) may also be on hand, but Joe Thieman (Princeton) has exams.

The draftees aren't likely to be signed until next season unless someone shows signs he is a Tim Wittman-type player -- "intense, an attacking defender," Cooper said.

Miscellaneous

A casualty of the loss at Buffalo was Paul Wright's string of games in which he had at least one point; it ended at 30. . . . Eric Dade is the only player who has appeared in all 55 Spirit regular-season games. . . . The Spirit's Dan O'Keefe is three short of becoming the league's third player to reach 600 points. Harrisburg's Franklin McIntosh has 630, Buffalo's Rudy Pikuzinski 617.

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