Ex-Spirit player McIntosh aims for win, not revenge But 'Sweet Feet' still sour over last year's suspension

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

Franklin McIntosh wants to make one thing perfectly clear: Tonight's game won't be Franklin McIntosh vs. Mike Stankovic or even Franklin McIntosh vs. Baltimore.

Tonight at the Baltimore Arena, it will be the Cincinnati Silverbacks, whose leading scorer happens to be McIntosh, vs. the Baltimore Spirit.

McIntosh will be remembered for two productive seasons in Baltimore. The man they call Sweet Feet led the Spirit in scoring last season, only to be suspended near the end by player-coach Stankovic for "lack of dedication at a crucial time" when he missed a key practice.

McIntosh is saying most of the correct things. He is off to a roaring start with Cincinnati -- he ranks second in scoring in the National Professional Soccer League with 26 points in five games.

"I'm just trying to play the way I know how," McIntosh said this week from Pittsburgh, where he was trying out for the U.S. national indoor team.

Will the fact that he left Baltimore with a strained relationship with the club serve as motivation tonight?

"Not really," he said. "I'll be there to play soccer and try to get a win."

But McIntosh is still simmering over the suspension that led to bTC his departure this season. In January, he told the Spirit that he needed to go to San Francisco for a few days in March to complete a deal for a condo that he planned to lease -- "a good business investment."

Then-coach Dave MacWilliams and general manager Drew Forrester granted him permission. But when Stankovic replaced MacWilliams, the issue became the number of days McIntosh needed.

Stankovic thought three would suffice. McIntosh said he needed more. Three, Stankovic said. When McIntosh didn't return after three days, missing a Wednesday practice during which the Spirit was preparing for a game that could give it home-field advantage in the playoffs, Stankovic suspended him for the last two regular-season games.

"Mike's telling people I wasn't dedicated," McIntosh said. "Personally, I think that's unfair. He wanted a scapegoat. If the team lost, it would be Franklin's fault. If it won, it was done without Franklin. I was in a no-win situation."

The Spirit secured home-field advantage anyway, and Stankovic extended the suspension through the first round and then the second round of the playoffs. McIntosh's season was over.

"Mike wanted all the credit," McIntosh said. "He [shortchanged] me and I'm not sure I can forgive him."

Stankovic and Forrester consider McIntosh a likable fellow who is exceptionally talented, able to put points on the board in abundance. He delivered handsomely for the Spirit, but is considered difficult to handle.

"I treat all the players the same -- fairly," Stankovic said. "I couldn't have different rules for Franklin. When he didn't report back when we told him to, I had no choice but to suspend him."

Much as the team missed McIntosh's scoring, the players

appeared to be behind Stankovic. "Mike did the right thing," one player said.

NOTES: Branko Segota underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee to repair damaged cartilage and will be out three to six weeks. Segota, 35, who hurt the knee in practice Tuesday, has missed three games with a sprained ankle. He has six points in two games, including career goals Nos. 511 and 512 in last week's loss to the Harrisburg Heat. "As far as knee surgery is concerned," said Forrester, "this is as minor as it gets, but something that had to be done."

Spirit tonight

Opponent: Cincinnati Silverbacks

Site: Baltimore Arena

Time: 7: 35

Radio: Updates after each quarter on WWLG (1360 AM)

Outlook: The Spirit has dropped two straight and, like Cincinnati, is 2-3. G Cris Vaccaro, whose fractured big toe is healed, will start for the Spirit. D Doug Neely, who is with the U.S. national beach soccer team in Brazil, will miss the game. Mike Henning (knee), Barry Stitz (ankle) and Ron Simmons (knee) are out. Jamie Christie (ankle) is doubtful. Ex-Spirit players Franklin McIntosh, Rob Ukrop and Brad Smith rank first, fourth and sixth, respectively, in Cincinnati scoring.

Pub Date: 11/16/96

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