New league not starting off on right foot

Poor fields, officiating errors mar product

MISL notebook

November 09, 2001|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,SUN STAFF

The new Major Indoor Soccer League, which promised a season of change, instead closely resembled the now-defunct National Professional Soccer League last weekend in Philadelphia.

From the very start, with a slick First Union Spectrum turf that put the players in dangerous situations on Saturday, to the very end, which resulted in an official protest from Baltimore in reference to a phantom overtime "two-foul rule" penalty that isn't in the rulebook, Philadelphia's 16-14 overtime win against the Blast was noteworthy for all the wrong reasons.

Just how bad did things get?

When the league received the video of the game (supplied regularly by the home team) to assist in the review of the protest, the tape was cut short, missing the pivotal overtime period entirely.

The bad taste lingered until Wednesday night when the league finally came out with a ruling, acknowledging the referees' error, apologizing to the Blast organization, but not overturning the original call.

"I have to be honest, the whole event was a nightmare," said Blast head coach/ general manager Kevin Healey.

Players on both sides were taking falls due to the condensation from the ice surface below along with areas where sponsor logos appear. Blast captain Lance Johnson injured his wrist and will be playing tonight against Kansas City in a cast while he waits to have an X-ray taken. Healey said he apologized to his players at practice on Monday.

"Those were the worst field conditions I ever played on - it was awful," said Blast defender Dewan Bader, in his eighth indoor season. "They're changing everything saying it's the Major Indoor Soccer League now and we're going to be professional. It seems like things are making a turn in the opposite direction instead of going forward."

In overtime, the referees called a "two-foul" penalty on Blast defender Sean Bowers, but there is no such penalty. The KiXX scored the game-winner on the ensuing power play.

"As a professional sports league constantly striving to reach a higher level of performance, we will not accept officiating errors relating to our Rules of Play," MISL commissioner Steve Ryan stated in a written release.

The league has taken disciplinary action on the senior referee, Tamas Lauer, who will not return to game action until at least Jan. 1. MISL vice president of operations Brian Fleming also was on the phone to the Philadelphia staff this week concerning the playing conditions and the videotape miscue, and was assured the problems will be rectified.

Hale's dedication recognized

When Blast team operator Ed Hale got a call a couple months back informing him he was the recipient of the Rex Barney Award, presented at the annual Sports Boosters of Maryland Headliners Banquet on Wednesday night, he jokingly asked, "Are you sure you got the right guy?"

The answer was yes.

What was at first a curiosity to Hale has turned into strong passion and dedication for the game of soccer.

Hale, who currently chairs the league's expansion committee, first owned the Blast franchise from 1989 until 1992 and then regained ownership in 1998.

"I don't think people realize how much I care about my soccer team," said Hale, a highly regarded businessman who is the chief executive officer of First Mariner Bank. "It started off that I knew absolutely nothing about the business of soccer or the game itself. I've learned a lot and it's got to the point where I enjoy the aspects of trying to get soccer as a whole recognized around the country, and that's everybody - indoor, outdoor, everybody playing together."

Playoff format set

The inaugural MISL playoffs will consist of two rounds beginning the week of April 15, involving the top four teams.

The semifinal round will be a one-game elimination with the No. 4 seed traveling to the No. 1 seed and the No. 3 visiting the No. 2 seed. The winners will meet in a best-of-three championship series with the higher seed getting the home-field advantage.

Marinaro, Bowes honored

Cleveland Crunch star Hector Marinaro earned Offensive Player of the Week honors after registering 12 points in two games over the weekend, and Kansas City Comets goalkeeper Brian Bowes was named Defensive Player of the Week for his effort in a 13-12 win at Harrisburg on Saturday.

A three-goal, one-assist performance in a 23-14 win over Kansas City on Friday was the weekend highlight for Marinaro, who leads the league with 19 points.

Bowes, getting his first action this season, turned back 12 of 18 Harrisburg shots to get his first win with the Comets.

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