Spirit low, ray of light is sought in 3-14 season For Stankovic, finishing crucial to improvement

December 31, 1997|By FROM STAFF REPORTS

Checking its personnel losses coming off a 20-20 record last year, the Spirit knew this season wasn't going to be a stroll in the park on a warm spring day, but it didn't expect freezing rain, blustery winds and a wind chill in the teens, either.

"It's funny," said coach Mike Stankovic. "I'm definitely sure we're better than our record [3-14], but we can't even steal a game these days. Maybe I'm wrong."

Last weekend's trio of games in a 44-hour time span was a cutdown version of the way the season has gone since October. Three games, three losses -- all close and totally winnable.

"In Harrisburg, we had a big lead [11-2] and gave it away," said Stankovic. "In close [one-point] games with Philadelphia and Cleveland, we had more than enough chances to score and put the games away."

So instead of 6-11, the same number of wins as the team it will face in Cincinnati today (3: 05 p.m.), the Spirit can only see next to last place in the 13-team NPSL on a clear day.

"There's no way that's acceptable," said the coach. "It's my obligation to make things happen for the better. We have to change things, keep trying to get things turned around."

But are there indoor players out there who could come in and help and who are available?

"We don't know unless we keep looking, keep bringing guys in and trying combinations to see what works," said Stankovic.

"The way [goalkeeper Khalil] Azmi is playing right now, it looks like we have a good one, maybe one of the best. You need to be consistent back there [in goal]. With Derrick [Marcano] and myself joining Ron [Simmons], Lance [Johnson] and Todd Hicks in the back [defense], we're more stable.

"But, up front, we're just not getting it done. Bo [Vuckovic] being out the last five games has cost us a few points each game and that's been critical. But we've had enough chances to score more. The guys just haven't been finishing off the plays."

Vuckovic, who still leads the team in scoring despite his two-week absence, will not play today, Stankovic wanting to make sure he doesn't bring him back too soon.

"Besides," said the coach, "we need him for the home games next week [against Edmonton on Friday and Cleveland on Saturday]. We've got to make a move. As bad as our record is, and it stinks, I think we can still catch Cincinnati.

"It's the little things that have been putting us away, but it's always that way: Little things win for you, too. We have it tough right now with all this losing and maybe we can't win because of the difficult atmosphere. The only way to find out is to keep plugging and see what happens, or to try change."

Spirit today

Opponent: Cincinnati Silverbacks

Site: The Crown, Cincinnati

Time: 3: 05 p.m.

Radio: WCBM (680 AM)

Outlook: The Spirit (3-14) remains winless on the road in nine tries, but Cincinnati is a team it has beaten twice in three games. The Silverbacks, 6-8 after a bad start, are coming off an 18-12 win Sunday over their Central Division-leading rival, Milwaukee (11-4).

Pub Date: 12/31/97

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