New rules help game go with the flow

Early results show changes speed action with fewer stoppages

MISL notebook


October 24, 2001|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,SUN STAFF

The first quarter of the inaugural Major Indoor Soccer League game in Philadelphia took all of 20 minutes.

Of the three season openers on Saturday night, only the Blast's 12-10 win over Harrisburg lasted more than two hours (2 hours, 13 minutes), and that was only because it went into overtime. The early indication is that the new rule changes have, among other things, produced a faster game with more possession and flow.

Players are more comfortable knowing they can now play the ball back after crossing their team's defensive yellow line. With four individual fouls in a half resulting in a two-minute penalty, players are less willing to give up fouls to slow an opponent and thus stop play. With shootouts only granted for technical infractions - no longer for individual fouls that send players to the penalty box - there are fewer play stoppages.

Fewer whistles translate into more action and excitement for the fans.

"All we're doing is simplifying the game," said Harrisburg coach Richard Chinapoo. "It is just a condensed version of the outdoor game. We're taking the game that these guys grew up playing and are just putting it indoors. There's limited space, it's much quicker, but it's a field and they can just go and play.

"They don't have to be concerned about crossing the yellow line knowing you can't play the ball back. I think they will feel more comfortable with their decision-making and you'll see a bit more creativity from these guys."

The rule changes particularly affect the goalkeepers, who will possess the ball more often, then have only five seconds to release it and can no longer throw it over all three lines.

"I like it - it definitely increases the flow of a game," said Blast goalkeeper Scott Hileman. "I had to use my feet a lot more the last game, guys are checking back more and you don't have to worry about a bad play near the yellow line. It's more possession at midfield and less chucking it down the other end of the field, which makes for better soccer."

Strategy also changes.

With a big lead, do you try to spread it out to keep possession? When trailing, how do you close down space on an opponent who is trying to do the above?

Attendance watch

The league had an average attendance of 7,724 among the three games played on opening night. The Kansas City Comets had a high of 9,615 fans in a 7-2 win against the Cleveland Crunch; the Blast had 8,698 in its overtime thriller against Harrisburg - up from last season's home opening crowd of 8,103; and 4,859 in Philadelphia watched the KiXX beat the Milwaukee Wave, 16-11.

Players of the Week

Blast forward Tarik Walker and Kansas City goalkeeper Chris D'Amico were named MISL Offensive and Defensive Players of the Week, respectively.

Walker's second goal of the game came in overtime to send the Blast past Harrisburg. D'Amico, in his first game with his hometown team, turned back 10 of 11 shots despite suffering a dislocated finger in the first quarter of the Comets' 7-2 win over Cleveland.

Et cetera

Blast midfielder Denison Cabral has added a new twist to his post-goal celebration, quickly shedding his game jersey before going into his traditional back flip. The T-shirt he wears underneath has "Daniela" printed on the back after his new daughter, who was born Sept. 22. ... Philadelphia forward Joel Shanker's goal at 4:20 of the first quarter was the first in the new MISL.

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