Spirit calls on Stankovic to field new responsibility

January 28, 1994|By Doug Brown | Doug Brown,Staff Writer

No miracles are expected from Mike Stankovic, but Spirit coach Kenny Cooper can submit a list of reasons why he is activating his assistant.

Stankovic, 37, a six-time Major Soccer League All-Star with the Blast, will play for the first time this season when the Spirit faces the Kansas City Attack tonight at Baltimore Arena.

"He'll play indefinitely," Cooper said. "We're picking up injuries. Games will be more physical. Fourteen of our final 20 games are on the road, some back-to-back. It's more difficult playing on the road. We'll have to steal some games."

Last season, his first as a full-time assistant, Stankovic played four games, collecting a goal and three assists, during the final month of the season after injuries struck the team. The previous season, the Blast's last, he underwent major knee surgery. His says his knee is stronger than it was when he played last March.

"This is no problem; it'll be fun," Stankovic said.

"I'm pretty much fit because I've been training all season with the team. I just need a few games to get back on track."

Cooper facetiously likens Stankovic's return to the Buffalo Bills' repeated trips to the Super Bowl, which they have yet to win.

"Mike keeps coming back, the only difference being he won a championship [in 1984 with the Blast]," Cooper said, smiling.

"It's not like we expect Mike to be the difference or to change things. But his presence on the floor will help, especially with the young players in pressure situations."

The Spirit will play without scoring leader Paul Wright tonight against Kansas City and tomorrow night at the St. Louis Ambush. He was recalled by the Los Angeles Salsa of the outdoor American Professional Soccer League for a game Sunday against the El Salvador national team in El Salvador in a tournament including teams from North and South America.

The Spirit's loan agreement with the Salsa provided for the recall. Wright, No. 8 in the National Professional Soccer League with 76 points,will rejoin the Spirit for Wednesday's road game against the Canton Invaders.

"This will be the first time we haven't had Paul," Cooper said. "It's a challenge, and this team is stimulated by a challenge."

Team captain Rusty Troy is expected to play tonight despite a sprained right knee that kept him out of practice until yesterday.

He has been playing with the injury since mid-November, but aggravated it in the second quarter of the win over the Wichita Wings last Friday.

"I planted my foot and twisted the knee again," Troy said. "There was no way I could go on."

Spirit trainer Marty McGinty lists Troy as probable tonight and questionable tomorrow night, "depending how he fares tonight. Structurally, his knee is OK. He didn't tear the ligament; he stretched it."


Opponent: Kansas City Attack

Site: Baltimore Arena

Time: 7:35

Radio: WWLG (1360 AM), WAMD (970 AM)

Tickets: Many available

Outlook: The game will conclude the first half of the 40-game NPSL season for the Spirit. Game 21 is tomorrow night in St. Louis. The Spirit (16-3) is 12-1 at home and 30-4 in two seasons. The defending NPSL champion Attack is 6-13, fifth in the National Division. Kansas City features Jon Parry, No. 12 in the league points race with 68. Spirit G Cris Vaccaro is scheduled to start this weekend's games, but will probably miss Wednesday's at the Canton Invaders as a respite. Probable despite injuries are Jason Dieter (ankle), Goran Hunjak (ankle), Rusty Troy (knee) and Dan O'Keefe (knee). John Abe missed yesterday's practice because of sickness, but is probable. The first 3,000 fans 21 and over will receive free Spirit mugs.

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