Snow gives ailing Spirit time to mend for Blizzard Team has practiced once for game with Buffalo

January 12, 1996|By Doug Brown | Doug Brown,SUN STAFF

The Spirit tried to put a positive spin on its snowbound week, and to a small degree succeeded.

Coach Dave MacWilliams was able to conduct only one practice in preparation for tonight's game against the Buffalo Blizzard at the Baltimore Arena. The Spirit's Du Burns Arena practice facility was shut down for three days, and on Wednesday, when the Spirit would have liked to have practiced at the Baltimore Arena, the surface was ice for that night's Bandits game.

The good news is that the Spirit's injured -- notably, Bobby Joe Esposito (hip), Dave Vaudreuil (stomach), Barry Stitz (ankle) and Jamie Christie (hamstring) -- had time to heal without being tempted to risk re-injury by practicing.

"It was still like a ghost town Tuesday, making it difficult to sell tickets or even contact people," general manager Drew Forrester said. "So we had a three-hour staff meeting to review the first half of the season and plan for the second. Ordinarily, we never have that much time when we can all meet."

Kevin Sloan, Omid Namazi, Zak Ibsen, Brad Smith and Vaudreuil, the Spirit players who were invited to Major League Soccer's scouting combine in Irvine, Calif., were stranded here.

MLS and the NPSL have signed an agreement to share players, with selected NPSL stars joining MLS outdoor teams after the indoor season. More than 50 NPSL players were invited to the combine, but at least seven didn't make it -- the Harrisburg Heat's Domenic Mobilio and Scoop Stanisic in addition to the Spirit's five.

Ibsen and Vaudreuil are under contract with MLS, but the fact that Sloan, Namazi and Smith were unable to perform before MLS general managers could hurt them in the draft next month.

"They'll still be put in the draft," Forrester said. "They're experienced at a high level outdoors and are well-known by the inner circle of coaches."

Spirit tonight

Opponent: Buffalo Blizzard

Site: Baltimore Arena

Time: 7:35

Radio: WWLG (1360 AM), WASA (1330 AM)

Outlook: With 11-6 records, the Spirit and Buffalo are tied for third place in the National Professional Soccer League's American Division behind the Cleveland Crunch and Harrisburg Heat. The Blizzard, which has won three straight, is coming off a 12-3 win over the Cincinnati Silverbacks. The Spirit, loser of three of its past four, lost to Harrisburg on Saturday. In the teams' only meeting this season, in October, the Spirit beat Buffalo, 21-14. Gino DiFlorio, who missed most of last season after Achilles' tendon surgery, leads Buffalo with 65 points and is No. 13 in the league. Andy Crawford, who has 59 points, has scored at least one point in a Blizzard-record 21 consecutive games. Goalie Pat Harrington is 10-3.

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