New-look Neely takes shortcut to net for Spirit

March 25, 1994|By Doug Brown | Doug Brown,Sun Staff Writer

While the teams were warming up before the game, the Kansas City Attack's Kevin Koetters spotted an unfamiliar face in Spirit uniform No. 15.

"Who's that in Doug Neely's uniform?" Koetters asked the Spirit players. "Did you sign someone? Where's Neely?"

Neely was in uniform No. 15 as usual, but with short hair for the first time in 10 years, since his freshman year at San Diego State. Almost on impulse, Neely visited a barber March 11 a few hours before the Cleveland Crunch game.

"I had been thinking about it, and as I was driving home after our morning workout, I decided to get it done," Neely said. "I told her to take a lot off with the first snip. That way, there was no way I could turn back."

Two nights later, in Milwaukee, Neely sat out the game with a strained back, prompting teammate Rusty Troy to heckle him.

"Just like Samson, you get your hair cut and it zaps your strength," Troy said, referring to the Biblical figure, who drew his strength from his long hair before Delilah cut it while he slept.

In the three games since, however, Neely has become a hot scorer.

The long-haired Neely had five goals in his first 31 games this season. The short-haired Neely has seven in his past three games, including five in Sunday's 16-13 loss to the Detroit Rockers, tying a club record.

"That's mainly because I was moved from defense to midfield for that one game so I could help guard Drago," Neely said. "I was in front of the goal more and got more opportunities."

Neely almost had a sixth goal, but Detroit goalie Bryan Finnerty made a perfect save.

Neely's scoring outburst may be a fleeting thing. He is expected to return to defense for the Spirit's road game against the Crunch tonight.

* Though its first-round playoff opponent isn't set, the Spirit has a date for its first home postseason game -- April 9. The Spirit will open the playoffs on the road. A deciding game in the best-of-three series would be April 11 in Baltimore.

SPIRIT TONIGHT

Opponent: Cleveland Crunch

Site: Cleveland State University Convention Center

Time: 7:35

TV: None

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

Outlook: The Spirit's magic number is four to clinch its second straight NPSL American Division title. Both teams have five games left. The Spirit leads the season series, 3-0. The Spirit, 7-10 on the road, has lost seven of its past eight away games. Spirit G Cris Vaccaro is probable after missing two games with a pulled hamstring. Paul Wright is three from breaking Goran Hunjak's team record for points (141) in a season. Cleveland has the top two NPSL scorers in Zoran Karic (238) and Hector Marinaro (218).

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