Spirit to greet midway point minus 2 stars

January 25, 1994|By Doug Brown | Doug Brown,Staff Writer

The Spirit may be without two of its principal players this weekend.

As it reaches the midway point in the 40-game season with Game 20 here Friday against the Kansas City Attack and Game 21 Saturday on the road against the St. Louis Ambush, the Spirit apparently will have to cope without Paul Wright and Rusty Troy.

Wright, the club's top scorer and No. 7 in the National Professional Soccer League with 76 points, has been recalled by his summer team, the Los Angeles Salsa of the American Professional Soccer League.

The Spirit's loan agreement with the Salsa provided for his recall for a game against the El Salvador national team Sunday in El Salvador in a tournament featuring teams from North and South America. Wright is to return for the Feb. 2 road game against the Canton Invaders.

"We anticipated this, but hoped it wouldn't happen," Spirit coach Kenny Cooper said. "There are certain players who ignite the fuse, and Paul is one. We hope he doesn't get hurt."

Troy, the Spirit's No. 5 scorer with 34 points, sprained a knee in the first half of last Friday's win over the Wichita Wings and is questionable for this weekend's games. When Tim Wittman suffered a season-ending knee injury, Troy took over the mantle of team captain.

"His knee is sore and stiff," Cooper said. "It has bothered him off and on throughout the season. If he can't play, it's a real loss."

Spirit's best bets

Ballots have been distributed to players and coaches for voting for the NPSL's seventh All-Star Game Feb. 22 in St. Louis. The Spirit's best bets are Wright and Cris Vaccaro, the NPSL's top-rated goalie. Defender Doug Neely also is a possibility.

Each team must have at least one representative, but no more than three. The game will be televised live by ESPN.

TV rating pleases Spirit

Saturday's delayed telecast by Channel 2 of the Spirit's Friday night win over the Wichita Wings drew a 3.2 rating, beating the NHL All-Star Game (2.7) that followed. A 3.2 represents about 32,000 homes in metropolitan Baltimore. The first Spirit broadcast Jan. 8 drew a 3.1.

"The numbers of both broadcasts are very impressive," said WMAR-TV general manager Joe Lewin. "The Spirit has a product that is marketable on TV and the ratings indicate they have a large audience."

Said Cooper: "We're ecstatic. Before the season is over, we'll do more, tentatively the last home game against Harrisburg. Getting soccer in the living room is a major step."

Turner likes odds

The preseason favorites in the NPSL's National Division, Wichita and Kansas City, are languishing in fourth and fifth place, respectively.

After the loss to the Spirit Friday, Wichita coach Roy Turner said, "People picked us to win. I'm sure the betting odds are good now. I'd like to get a wager on us."

Miscellaneous

Home's not always sweet: Visiting NPSL teams won six of 10 games last week. Overall this season, home teams have an 81-44 edge. After Friday's game against Kansas City, the Spirit will play 14 of its final 20 regular-season games on the road. . . . Chicago Power player-coach Pato Margetic was named NPSL Player of the Week after his three goals and five assists in a 21-16 win over Dayton. . . . After 127 games, NPSL attendance is up to an average of 5,285 from last year's season-record 5,213. The Spirit is sixth in the 12-team league with a 5,852 average. . . . The Cleveland Crunch's Zoran Karic remains on a scoring rampage. He has extended his NPSL consecutive-game records for scoring at least one point to 54, to 42 for a goal and to 35 for an assist. With 160 points in 21 games, he is on pace for 305, which would obliterate teammate Hector Marinaro's record 248 last season.

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