MISL at a glance

October 04, 2002|By Glenn P. Graham

Eastern Conference

Blast

Coach: Kevin Healey

Last season: 18-26, fourth place; eliminated by Milwaukee in one-game semifinal

Outlook: On paper, the Blast once again has one of the most talented collection of players in the league. The aim now is to win. An offense that already featured 100-points-plus scorers Denison Cabral and Paul Wright, among others, added firepower with the signing of former Harrisburg Heat standout Gino DiFlorio. The 38-year-old forward, coming off knee surgery last December, brings poise with the ball and a powerful left foot. Veteran midfielder Danny Kelly, who battled a stress fracture in his foot most of last season, is a catalyst who brings constant effort every shift when healthy. Last year's big addition, Sean Bowers, provided a MISL Defender of the Year performance - his third such award - with strong two-way play that included 93 points and a team-high 94 blocks. A stronger commitment to team defense in front of keeper Scott Hileman will be aimed at avoiding the soft goals that often plagued the team last season.

Final touch: The Baltimore Arena has been renamed First Mariner Arena after Blast team operator Ed Hale, also the chairman of First Mariner Bancorp, and the city of Baltimore reached a 10-year naming-rights deal.

Cleveland Force

Coach: Mike Pilger

Last season: 16-28, fifth place; did not qualify for the playoffs

Outlook: Gone is the Crunch and back is the Force, which was the franchise's nickname in the old MISL. Also returning is the league's all-time leading scorer, Hector Marinaro, who, at 37, shows no signs of slowing down after racking up 188 points last year (second in the MISL) to bring his astounding career total to 2,703 going into his 18th indoor season. Cleveland had a late surge fall short under first-year coach Pilger last season, failing to reach the postseason for the second straight time. Familiarity might provide a faster start this season, with the core group mostly back. All-Star John Ball (91 points) and Giuliano Oliviero (85 points) provide scoring punch to complement Marinaro. After getting in the way of 86 shots last season, Kiley Couch established himself as one the finest young defenders in the league. The goalkeeper position is a cause for concern, with Jim Larkin (5-15 in his first season with Cleveland last year) handling the chores until veteran Otto Orf returns from offseason rotator-cuff surgery.

Final touch: Marinaro is the only player on the roster who played for the original Force, joining the franchise in the 1983-1984 season.

Harrisburg Heat

Coach: Erich Geyer

Last season: 10-34, last place; did not qualify for the playoffs

Outlook: You only need one hand (thumb included) to count the number of players back from last year's team - the biggest roster turnover in the franchise's 11-year history. Geyer, who coached Monterrey La Raza to three CISL/WISL indoor championships from 1995 to 2000, replaces Richard Chinapoo. The German native brings a demanding, no-nonsense approach to the bench, along with a handful of former Monterrey players to the field. Defenders Martin Hernandez and Genoni Martinez will mix with returnees Chris Morman and Matt Tanzini to supply support for Heat veteran goalkeeper Doug Petras, the franchise leader with 91 career wins. Veteran forward David Bascome (Heat-high 88 points last season) will have a fresh new cast to work with led by Ato Leone, who earned MVP honors in the now-defunct WISL before moving on to the Kansas City Comets.

Final touch: After registering just 15 points in his first 28 games last season, Tanzini finished strong with 33 points in his last 13 games for 48 points.

Philadelphia KiXX

Coach: Omid Namazi

Last season: 30-14, second place; won MISL championship, 2-1, over Milwaukee

Outlook: The KiXX rode its unified, blue-collar ways to the championship round last year and then did the improbable by beating the two-time defending champ Milwaukee Wave in its own building in the third and deciding game. Not only did the KiXX put an end to Milwaukee's reign, but it also put to rest the Wave's 30-game home win streak that stretched over two seasons. It came as no surprise to the KiXX, which has shown a penchant for big road wins in the postseason over the past two years. With little change to the roster, aside from the big acquisition of All-Star defender Glenn Carbonara from Milwaukee, the team is preparing to go from the hunter to the hunted. Forward Chris Handsor, who scored the game-winner in the championship decider, came into his own last season with 102 points to lead a balanced attack that also features veterans Don D'Ambra, Kevin Sloan and Goran Vasic. All-Star goalkeeper Peter Pappas is ready to surpass Milwaukee's Victor Nogueira as the league's best.

Final touch: The KiXX has qualified for the playoffs in each of the six seasons the franchise has existed, culminating in the team's first league championship last spring.

Western Conference

Dallas Sidekicks

Coach: Tatu

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