National Professional Soccer League 1995-96 preview

October 22, 1995

American Division

Baltimore Spirit

Coach: Dave MacWilliams, 2nd season (23-17).

Last season: 23-17, 3rd in division; lost to Harrisburg in division semifinals.

Key players: Leading scorer Kevin Sloan; goalies Cris Vaccaro and Joe Mallia; playmaker Franklin McIntosh; newcomers Zak Ibsen and Bobby Joe Esposito.

Outlook: Sloan, who had a career-high 165 points last season, and McIntosh, Ibsen and Esposito are expected to lead the offense. Omid Namazi and Vaccaro anchor the defense. The Spirit, which was eliminated by Harrisburg in the first round of the playoffs the past three years, will need strong play at the end of the regular season to advance farther this time.

Buffalo Blizzard

Coach: Jim May, 2nd season, 1st full season (19-18).

Last season:Last season: 20-20, fourth in division; lost in division semifinals to Cleveland.

Key players: Paul Dougherty, sixth-leading NPSL scorer; brothers Rudy and Randy Pikuzinski; Gino DiFlorio.

Outlook: Buffalo will have to overcome its Cleveland syndrome after losing to the Crunch in each of the past three playoffs. The Blizzard will get points from the perennially high-scoring Pikuzinskis and DiFlorio, a three-time 100-point scorer. Pat Harrington is trying to reclaim his goalkeeper's job after missing most of last season with injuries.

Canton Invaders

Coach: Denzil Antonio, 2nd season (6-34).

Last season: 6-34, 6th in division.

Key players: All-Star forward Marcelo Carrera; goalkeeper Chris Damico; defenders Antonio and Neil Gilbert.

Outlook: The offense revolves around Carrera, who scored a team-high 49 goals and 131 points. The Invaders are in their 12th NPSL season and have won five championships, but have lost their touch. They haven't qualified for the playoffs the past three years.

Cincinnati Silverbacks

Coach: Gary Hindley, 1st season with Cincinnati; 5th in NPSL (81-48).

Last season (as Dayton Dynamo): 15-25, 5th in division.

Key players: Goalkeepers Carlos Pena and Mark Simpson; second-team All-NPSL forward Dennis Brose.

Outlook: The team is built around Pena, Simpson and Brose, who was fourth in the NPSL in scoring with 191 points and second in goals with 86. The club moved after six seasons in Dayton and was renamed the Silverbacks, after a gorilla with a silver streak on its back. The franchise hasn't reached the playoffs since 1991.

Cleveland Crunch

Coach: Bruce Miller, 1st season.

Last season: 30-10, 1st in division; lost in division final to Harrisburg.

Key players: First-team All-NPSL forwards Hector Marinaro and Zoran Karic; Rookie of the Year Henri Gutierrez; All-Star goalie Otto Orf.

Outlook: Marinaro and Karic lead the most potent offense in the league. Marinaro captured his second scoring title and MVP award with 99 goals and 255 points, and Karic was second in scoring with 241. The Crunch needs a good second year from Gutierrez, who set an NPSL rookie record with 114 points.

Harrisburg Heat

Coach: Jim Pollihan, 5th season (88-72).

Last season: 23-17, 2nd in division; lost in NPSL final to St. Louis.

Key players: Scorers Danny Kelly, Mark Pulisic, David Bascome and Bill Becher; defender and captain Richard Chinapoo and goalie Scoop Stanisic.

Outlook: The Heat will have to do it the same way it did last season, with teamwork. The club had no players on the All-Rookie or All-NPSL team, but had four players with 100-plus points and reached the NPSL title game.

Tampa Bay Terror

Coach: Kenny Cooper, 1st season, 3rd in NPSL (53-27 with Baltimore).

Last season: Expansion team.

Key players: Goalies Bill Andracki and Doug Petras; John Garvey; defenders Perry Van Derbeck and Brian Thiel.

Outlook: Ex-Spirit coach Cooper will need a lot of scoring from Garvey if Jon Parry doesn't play. Parry, the Spirit's No. 2 scorer last season who was obtained by Tampa Bay in the NPSL expansion draft, has been suspended because he hasn't reported. In a four-team tournament last weekend, the Terror lost to Kansas City, 18-8, and defending NPSL champion St. Louis, 21-18, and beat Wichita, 14-11.

National Division

Chicago Power

Coach: Alkis Panagoulias, 1st season.

Last season: 6-34, 6th in division.

Key players: Ken Snow, the NPSL's No. 14 scorer last season; Tony Sanneh, a first-team All-Rookie forward.

Outlook: Panagoulias, former Greek Olympic and national team coach, is completely rebuilding the club. The Power has signed only Snow and Sanneh, but there is time since the team doesn't open until Nov. 4. The Power finished third in an exhibition tournament, behind Milwaukee and Cincinnati and ahead of Detroit.

Detroit Rockers

Coach: Pato Margetic, 2nd season, 1st full season (14-9).

Last season: 18-22, 4th in division; lost in division semifinals to St. Louis.

Key players: Margetic and goalkeeper Bryan Finnerty.

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