MISL at a glance

October 19, 2001|By Glenn P. Graham

Blast

Coach: Kevin Healey

Last season (NPSL): 22-18, third in the American Conference; eliminated by Philadelphia, 2-1, in the conference final

Outlook: The Blast had a championship appearance within reach last season but forgot it still had one half to play against rival Philadelphia first. After the stunning 16-15 setback in the deciding game of the conference final, relinquishing a 10-2 halftime lead, the Blast goes back to the drawing board. No team did a better job of addressing its needs in the dispersal draft than the Blast, which added energy in the midfield with all-star Danny Barber (87 points) coming from Buffalo and more organization in back with Sean Bowers, a two-time NPSL Defender of the Year from Detroit. Scoring will come from a number of sources, with Tarik Walker and Lee Tschantret the primary targets up front. There's firepower aplenty at midfield with Barber joining Dension Cabral (fourth in the NPSL with 134 points), Paul Wright, Danny Kelly and company. Captain Lance Johnson, veteran Doug Neely and former Buffalo Blizzard Dewan Bader - also selected in the dispersal draft - will join Bowers to play in front of all-star keeper Scott Hileman. Veteran Jason Dieter, expected to return from arthroscopic knee surgery in a month, will provide a boost to the defense.

Final touch: The Blast racked up an NPSL-high 591 points last season, but only had one player, Cabral, among the top 15 in scoring. Wright was next with 103 points, tied for 20th.

Cleveland Crunch

Coach: Mike Pilger

Last season (NPSL): 18-22, last in the American Conference

Outlook: After reaching the NPSL finals the previous two seasons - winning its third title in the 1998-99 campaign - the Crunch fell on hard times last season. Enter Pilger, who brings 13 years of collegiate coaching experience (most recently at the University of Rochester) along with a fresh and opportunistic outlook. In Cleveland, however, it always starts with a familiar name: forward Hector Marinaro. The 36-year-old all-star led the NPSL in scoring (161 points in 34 games) for the eighth time in nine years and will continue to be the Crunch attack's starting point. Help comes with dispersal draft-acquisition Giuliano Oliverio, a forward who had 106 points with Toronto last season, along with the return of all-star midfielder John Ball. Trying to shore up a leaky defense that allowed 15.4 goals a game, the Crunch picked up goalkeeper Jim Larkin in a trade with Milwaukee and also selected Nevio Pizzolitto (Toronto) in the dispersal draft. Larkin, who had a 12.71 points-against average in an all-star season at Wichita, joins veteran Otto Orf to give the Crunch one of the finest goalkeeping tandems in the league.

Final touch: Cleveland will play host to the 2002 MISL All-Star Weekend, scheduled for Feb. 15-17. Included will be a skills competition on Saturday and a legends game on Sunday before the All-Star Game at Gund Arena.

Harrisburg Heat

Coach: Richard Chinapoo

Last season (NPSL): 24-16, first in the American Conference; eliminated by Philadelphia, 2-0, in the conference semifinal

Outlook: The good news for the Heat was it went from last to first in the regular-season standings last year. The bad news? With the NPSL's Most Valuable Player, Gino DiFlorio; the runner-up, David Bacome; and the league's Coach of the Year, Chinapoo, the Heat couldn't get out of the first round of the playoffs. Chinapoo worked on retooling his defense and mixing in some youth to complement his potent attack. DiFlorio and Bascome combined for 270 points last season, and having Lester Felician from the onset (he was acquired from Kansas City in the middle of last season) provides even more marking problems for the opposition. The biggest change comes in goal, where former Toronto keeper Paolo Ceccarelli, selected in the dispersal draft, takes over for veteran Doug Petras. Last year, he won 16 games in Toronto with a respectable 12.73 points-against average. Defender Matt Knowles (51 points) comes via Detroit with experience, leadership and a dangerous shot on restarts.

Final touch: As a rookie last season, defender Chris Morman set a team record with 78 blocked shots. He finished third in the NPSL's Rookie of the Year balloting.

Kansas City Comets

Coach: Zoran Savic

Last season (NPSL): 14-26, fourth in the National Conference; eliminated by Milwaukee, 2-1, in the conference semifinal

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