No surprise for Ambush: Title run is tougher the second time around

January 16, 1996|By Doug Brown | Doug Brown,SUN STAFF

The St. Louis Ambush is face-to-face with a sports truism: Successfully defending a championship often is more difficult than winning one.

The National Professional Soccer League hasn't had a repeat winner since the Canton Invaders won titles in 1988, 1989 and 1990. The Chicago Power, Detroit Rockers, Kansas City Attack, Cleveland Crunch and St. Louis each have won one title since then.

The Ambush lost to National Division rivals Kansas City and Detroit over the weekend and dropped deeper into third place, four games behind front-running Kansas City, which has won 12 straight.

Minus seven injured players, coach Daryl Doran turned to his young talent, and the inexperience was glaring. The defense surrendered 49 points in the two games.

Still in demand

Although five Spirit players were snowbound and couldn't make it to Major League Soccer's scouting combine in Irvine, Calif., last week, their status in the new outdoor league's draft Feb. 6-7 should not be adversely affected by their absence.

"It won't hinder their chances one bit," said spokesman Adam Low of the MLS Columbus Crew. "Our coaches have experience at all levels, and most of them know these players."

The Spirit's Kevin Sloan, Omid Namazi and Brad Smith were invited to the combine along with Zak Ibsen and Dave Vaudreuil, who already have MLS contracts. MLS, which will begin its inaugural season this spring, will share players with the NPSL. Once the indoor season ends in April, they will report to MLS clubs.

"It should work in our favor that we played outdoors for or $H against some of these coaches for eight or nine years," Sloan said. "We expect we'll be treated in the draft as if we were injured: You're drafted anyway."

Spirit general manager Drew Forrester recommended three other players to MLS, including team scoring leader Franklin McIntosh. The new league might be wary of McIntosh's age (32), however.

"I haven't had any inquiries," said McIntosh, the NPSL's assists leader. "But if somebody wants me, I'll play."

Miscellaneous

* Ex-Spirit Michael King, the Milwaukee Wave's leading scorer, is the first to be named NPSL Player of the Week twice this season. He had 18 points in two wins.

* Art Kramer thought he had retired, but out he came at the request of Milwaukee. A former NPSL all-star, Kramer retired two seasons ago and moved into the broadcast booth with ESPN2. In his first game back under a 15-day Wave contract, Kramer scored a goal Sunday against Chicago.

* With its 19-2 record, Cleveland might threaten the best record in NPSL history, Canton's 36-4 in 1989-90.

* The Spirit's road game against the Buffalo Blizzard on Friday will be televised on a tape-delayed basis by ESPN2 next Monday at 2 p.m.

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