Playoffs will produce new champ

April 05, 1994|By Doug Brown | Doug Brown,Sun Staff Writer

One thing is certain about the National Professional Soccer League playoffs: A new champion will be crowned.

Eight of the league's 12 teams will plunge into the opening round of the playoffs this week, but the defending champion Kansas City Attack will not be among them. The Attack finished last in the National Division with a 14-26 record.

The best-of-three series will open tonight with the National Division champion St. Louis Ambush visiting the Milwaukee Wave. It'll be the Cleveland Crunch at the Buffalo Blizzard tomorrow night, the Detroit Rockers at the Wichita Wings Thursday night and the Spirit at the Harrisburg Heat Friday night.

A look at the matchups:

* St. Louis vs. Milwaukee: The season series was tied at 2. The Ambush, led by defender-coach Daryl Doran, fourth on the team in scoring with 101 points, heads into the playoffs with a four-game winning streak. David Doyle is No. 4 in the NPSL in points with 175. The Wave, featuring goalie Victor Nogueira and his league-low 11.17 points-against average, has the NPSL's stingiest defense. Michael King has scored a team-record 158 points.

* Buffalo vs. Cleveland: Cleveland won the season's series, 3-1. The Crunch, led by the league's No. 1 and No. 2 scorers, Zoran Karic and Hector Marinaro, scored an NPSL-record 717 points. Five-time NPSL Goalkeeper of the Year Jamie Swanner leads the league's second-best defense. Rudy Pikuzinski and Paul Dougherty are the team's 100-points-plus scorers.

* Wichita vs. Detroit: The Wings dominated the season series, 3-1; the Rockers last month won their only game against Wichita in six tries over two years. NPSL coaches picked Detroit to finish last in a preseason poll. The Rockers' Andy Chapman is No. 3 in the NPSL in points.

* Baltimore vs. Harrisburg: The season's series was tied at 3. The Spirit captured its second straight American Division title with the league's best record (26-14), including an 18-2 home mark. The Spirit is 1-6 at Harrisburg over two seasons. An 8-3 record in the final 11 games lifted the Heat to its third straight playoff appearance. Harrisburg bounced the Spirit from last year's playoffs in the first round.

Brisson, Koziol doubtful

The Spirit's Clark Brisson and Joe Koziol, hobbled by pulled hamstrings, are doubtful for Friday's playoff opener at Harrisburg. Brisson suffered his injury in Saturday's regular-season finale against Harrisburg. Koziol has missed four games.

The other injured Spirit players, including goalie Cris Vaccaro and scoring leader Paul Wright, are expected to play.

Attendance keeps rising

The NPSL set an attendance record for the second straight year, from an average of 5,103 to 5,720, a 12-percent increase.

Spirit crowds rose 18 percent, from 5,444 to 6,460, sixth best in the league.

Miscellaneous

Wichita's Dale Ervine was named NPSL Player of the Week after scoring nine goals in a pair of victories. Ervine is the Wings' No. 1 scorer with 139 points. . . . NPSL Player of the Month is Dennis Brose, who had 22 goals and eight assists in leading the Dayton Dynamo to a 4-4 record. . . . NPSL teams scored an average of 29 points a game, an all-time high and an increase of almost three over last season. . . . Karic broke the NPSL points record of 248, set last season by Marinaro, with 267.

NPSL PLAYOFFS

QUARTERFINALS

(Best of three)

American Division

Spirit vs. Harrisburg

Friday--At Harrisburg

Saturday--At Spirit

Monday--At Spirit*

Cleveland vs. Buffalo

Tomorrow--At Buffalo

Friday--At Cleveland

Sunday--At Cleveland*

National Division

St. Louis vs. Milwaukee

Today--At Milwaukee

Friday--At St. Louis

Saturday--At St. Louis*

Detroit vs. Wichita

Thursday--At Wichita

Saturday--At Detroit

Sunday--At Detroit*

* -- if necessary

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