Nobody promised Kenny Cooper a rose garden when he left the Spirit and moved to Tampa, Fla., to assemble a National Professional Soccer League expansion team.
Rose garden? He hasn't so much as smelled a rose.
No longer is he the coach of the Terror. While remaining as a director and president, he has taken a leave of absence from coaching because of a "philosophical difference of opinion with the league relative to players."
Three days after he started his leave of absence early last month, he developed pneumonia. He was succeeded by his assistant, Perry Van Der Beck, who realized after six games he couldn't coach and play, too, and stepped down.
Now, when the Terror plays the Spirit tomorrow at Baltimore Arena, the coach will be Derrick Marcano, a Cardinal Gibbons High graduate who played for Essex Community College, Towson State, the Baltimore Bays and the Spirit.
Marcano, 31, played in seven games for Tampa Bay this season and scored 13 points, but he is strictly a coach now. He is off to an 0-2 start with a team that won only five of its first 17 games.
L What Cooper found in Tampa Bay is a "chaotic sports market."
When he arrived to form the team that began play last season, the NFL Buccaneers appeared on the verge of leaving, Major League Baseball's Devil Rays weren't a reality, Major League Soccer hadn't invaded the area and the NHL Lightning, eager for a new arena, was talking of moving.
Tampa Bay appeared wide-open for Cooper, the master soccer promoter.
"Then, all of a sudden, in a three-month period, the Bucs' new ownership wants to keep the team in Tampa, the Devil Rays and Major League Soccer come in, and there's going to be a new ice arena," Cooper said.
Small wonder the Terror's average home attendance is 1,954, third lowest in the 15-team league.
Cooper seems most disillusioned with the NPSL itself.
"Soccer is too political, with too many egos and needless battles," he said. "It's difficult enough to find and sign quality players, but the league makes it even tougher.
"The first year wasn't easy and this second is no easier. It's like we're supposed to struggle. That's not fair to investors and fans."
The NFL went about it the right way, in Cooper's estimation, when it brought in the Carolina Panthers and Jacksonville Jaguars.
"The NFL made sure they were competitive right away," he said.
Opponent: Buffalo Blizzard
Site: Baltimore Arena
Time: 7: 35
Radio: Updates after each quarter on WWLG (1360 AM) and WASA (1330 AM)
Outlook: This is the teams' first meeting of the season. Buffalo has won seven of its last 10 and leads the NPSL's North Division with a 9-7 record. The Spirit (9-10) has lost two straight, but still clings to second place in the East Division. The Blizzard's Andrew Crawford is No. 20 in the league's points race with 47; Bo Vuckovic leads the Spirit with 64, good for eighth place.
Pub Date: 1/11/97