On field and off, Spirit battling for goal Ticket drive still short

like team, GM won't quit

March 27, 1998|By FROM STAFF REPORTS

Spirit general manager Drew Forrester recalled the team's first game five months ago: "You know, that opening game in Philadelphia was a microcosm of the season. We fell behind 9-0, but battled back to lead at halftime. Then, we fell behind again before tying the game late, and losing in overtime. We had four chances to score and didn't. They had one chance and won."

Good memory. Something that's not always advantageous when your team is 11-27 heading into the last two games of the season, tonight against Philadelphia (7: 35) and tomorrow against Kansas City (same time) at the Baltimore Arena.

Overtime losses (six), one-point setbacks (four), blown leads (five), Forrester recalls them all. "But not once did we quit in a game," he said.

A bunch of good guys, yes, but

Some better players are needed. Coach Mike Stankovic puts the number at "four or five." Good players cost money and, as things stand right now, owner Bill Stealey is about to disown the team unless 50,000 tickets are pre-sold for next season.

Almost every day for the past few weeks, Stankovic and other team personnel have been calling businesses, the soccer community and season-ticket holders, and the response has been encouraging overall.

"It's been a battle and I don't know if we'll reach our goal of 50,000 tickets," Forrester said, "but we've made strong progress in a couple of areas. We're well past 30,000 tickets and we've reached the goals we set for season tickets and sales within the soccer community."

The game plan was to get pledges for 15,000 tickets out of the corporate and business communities, but entering the last four days of the drive -- nothing.

"We've been in contact with [political leaders] and businesses proposing they buy a block of 300 tickets for one game but haven't seen any results yet. But that isn't saying we won't. We still have time," Forrester said.

In a letter to Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, Stealey wrote, "Investors and limited partners have been pursued, and no one has stepped forward."

That has changed. Forrester met with three groups expressing an interest in buying. And he added, "I just talked to a fourth group that didn't want to buy but was interested in investing in the team."

Stealey now has a decision to make: negotiate a sale price or take on an invester group. Meanwhile, no matter what the results against Philadelphia and Kansas City, the Spirit closes out its sixth season with its worst record.

"Definitely unacceptable, our record," Forrester said, "but there ZTC are a lot of things to be learned from the season. We have heart, now we have to get the talent to match."

Spirit tonight

Opponent: Philadelphia Kixx

Site: Baltimore Arena

Time: 7:35

Radio: WCBM (680 AM)

Outlook: The Spirit (11-27), out of the NPSL playoffs for the first time in its history due to a horrendous road record (2-18), can retain some measure of respect by finishing the season with a winning or .500 home record. The Spirit is 9-9 at home with two games left. The Kixx (24-14) leads the season series 4-1, with three of its victories being by one, two and three points.

Pub Date: 3/27/98

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