Stankovic signs Spirit contract, to play Friday against Blizzard

ON SOCCER

January 11, 1995|By DOUG BROWN

The face and the Yugoslavian accent were familiar and so was the deft touch on a soccer ball. Could that be Mike Stankovic practicing once more with the Spirit?

Sure enough, Stankovic breezed into Du Burns Arena yesterday, engaged in the workout, pronounced himself fit and signed a contract to play, starting with Friday's road game against the Buffalo Blizzard.

Stankovic, 38, a six-time Major Soccer League All-Star with the Blast, was the Spirit assistant coach and a sometime player the past two years. When Kenny Cooper left, Stankovic lost a bid for the head coaching job to Dave MacWilliams.

Stung, Stankovic at first had no interest in playing again, partly because he was running his soccer camps when training camp opened. A few weeks ago, he expressed an interest in rejoining the Spirit.

"The club feels I can help," Stankovic said. "I'm in shape, although not in top shape, because I work out all the time and play in pickup games. I've developed the workout mentality through the years."

Although Stankovic's signing and the suspension of Tim Wittman aren't related, the timing of Stankovic's return is propitious. Wittman, also a veteran, was suspended by MacWilliams for at least two weeks for insubordination during Sunday's loss to the Dayton Dynamo.

"Timmy has got to conform, it's as simple as that," MacWilliams said. "We had a disagreement on the bench that was not handled well by Timmy. We'll chat in two weeks and decide where to go from there."

Even allowing for the fact Wittman is a free spirit, MacWilliams could not tolerate such behavior from a player in his 14th season who was serving as team captain. MacWilliams hasn't appointed another captain.

Ex-Spirit Billy Reinhardt, a Patterson High grad, also practiced yesterday. He is getting a look after being released by the Harrisburg Heat. MacWilliams was impressed by Reinhardt's play against the Spirit in two games this season.

McIntosh earns NPSL salute

Spirit newcomer Franklin McIntosh is the National Professional Soccer League Player of the Week on the strength of 18 points in two games, including 10 in Sunday's loss to Dayton.

In eight games since he was acquired in a trade with Harrisburg, McIntosh has scored 43 points. The NPSL's all-time points leader, he is only 14 shy of the 800 milestone.

Miscellaneous

The Spirit's Lance Johnson (pulled groin muscle) is doubtful for Friday's game in Buffalo. . . . The game will be broadcast on a tape-delayed basis Sunday at noon by ESPN2. . . . Ex-Spirit Dan O'Keefe, 33, the NPSL's all-time leading goal scorer (349), was released by the Detroit Rockers. . . . The Cleveland Crunch had a win, a tie and three losses against five European teams in the Zurich (Switzerland) Cup Indoor Tournament. . . . Cleveland's Zoran Karic, the NPSL's MVP last season who has been slowed by a sprained knee, went without a goal against Detroit, ending his streak of at least one in 66 consecutive regular-season games. He extended his NPSL record for games with one or more assists to 80. . . . The Chicago Power beat Buffalo, 14-13, before 6,216 last Friday in Worcester, Mass., in the second of three neutral-site games scheduled as future expansion tests. The Spirit played Chicago in Philadelphia before 9,371 in October and the Power will play the Detroit Rockers in New Haven, Conn., March 17.

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