MacWilliams brings work ethic

August 02, 1994|By Doug Brown | Doug Brown,Sun Staff Writer

Jason Dieter and Barry Stitz sat in the back of the room, absorbing Dave MacWilliams' every word during a news conference introducing him as Spirit coach.

At 37, they noted, MacWilliams is 11 years younger than his predecessor, Kenny Cooper. And he is an American, a Philadelphia native.

"The coaching change is good as far as getting an American coach who was a player here," said Dieter, who, like Stitz, will enter his third season with the Spirit.

"Dave understands younger guys like Barry and me. We had season tickets when he played here in the 1980s. I remember him for his hard work ethic."

"He played with a lot of heart," Stitz said of MacWilliams' five years as a Blast forward. "He'll be a good player's coach."

With 225 goals and 182 assists in nine seasons, MacWilliams was the 20th-leading scorer in the 13-year history of the old Major Soccer League. He was at his best in the playoffs, with 73 points in 47 games.

"Baltimore fans will remember Dave as an intense, demanding player who came through in the clutch with the big goal," said Spirit vice president Drew Forrester.

MacWilliams said: "I came to play every night. If I had to leave something on the carpet, I did."

In signing MacWilliams to a two-year contract, Spirit owner Bill Stealey holds to the belief that his new coach can instill in his players the same drive he exhibited.

MacWilliams' coaching experience includes two seasons with the Penn-Jersey Spirit of the American Professional Soccer League and in semi-pro and top amateur leagues in the Philadelphia area, where he also conducts summer soccer camps.

"Our research on Dave as a coach tells us he's a strong motivator, a man who supports the players when they're winning and unites them when they're losing," Stealey said.

"We talked to a lot of people, including Cris Vaccaro, who had nothing but great things to say about him."

Although MacWilliams hasn't selected an assistant coach, he will have Vaccaro not only as a goalie, but as goalie coach.

In the disappointment of the Spirit's loss to the Harrisburg Heat in April's National Professional Soccer League playoffs, Vaccaro said he would retire.

"He's anxious to come back," MacWilliams said.

In the past week, MacWilliams has watched Spirit game tapes in an attempt to learn what sort of team he'll inherit. He realizes he may not have everyone back from the team that was 26-14, including 18-2 at home.

It is uncertain, for example, whether the Los Angeles Salsa will again loan Paul Wright, who was the Spirit's leading scorer last season.

"We'll still have a lot of players back from the team that had the best regular-season record in the league," MacWilliams said.

Stealey expects MacWilliams to build a team in his own image -- hard working and offensive minded.

"We look to score a lot," MacWilliams said.

"Like Wild Bill [Stealey] says, if we lose, it'll only be after scoring a lot of goals."

Most of all, Stealey wants a team that won't wilt in the playoffs. The Spirit lost to fourth-seeded Harrisburg in the first round each of the past two seasons after winning the NPSL's American Division title. Last season the Spirit dropped 10 of its final 14 games, the last two to Harrisburg in the playoffs.

"We want to be building toward the playoffs, not taking every regular-season game to the death," Stealey said.

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