MISL at a glance

October 11, 2003|By Glenn P. Graham

MISL at a glance

Eastern Division Blast

Coach: Tim Wittman.

Last season: 18-18 during regular season; won MISL championship, 2-1, over Milwaukee.

Outlook: With a strong nucleus of players returning from last season's championship team to go with an impressive batch of All-Star additions, the Blast has the tools to make a strong bid at repeating. Much of last year's late-season success was built around the players' collective commitment to do whatever was necessary to win. Wittman is looking for the same this season. With so many scoring options - Denison Cabral, Carlos "Chile" Farias, Tarik Walker and others - the Blast promises to be entertaining and potentially dominating. The scoring prowess should mean breathing room for a defense that will again lean on keeper Scott Hileman on a nearly full-time basis. Billy Nelson, Wendell Regis, Danny Kelly and midfielder Allen Eller provide smart, hard-nosed defense that will help offset the losses of team captain Lance Johnson and part of last year's one-two punch in goal, Brett Phillips. Veteran midfielder Danny Santoro, trying to come back from a knee injury, decided not to play this season.

Cleveland Force

Coach: Andy Schmetzer.

Last season: 19-17; eliminated by Blast in one-game conference semifinal.

Outlook: The question going into the Force's season is how much mileage the team can get from its older players. Scoring wiz Hector Marinaro, who will turn 39 next month, is back after an injury-filled 2002-03 season in which he played in just 15 games. Setup artist Zoran Karic is 43, and goalkeeper Otto Orf is one month away from 40. The defense in front of Orf and fellow keeper Jim Larkin should be sound. All-Star John Ball (15 goals, 20 assists and 38 blocks last season) is as reliable as they come, and acquiring equally versatile Nick Corneli from Kansas City should provide a boost. Lee Edgerton, Chris Stathopoulos and recently acquired Ato Leone are all proven commodities up front.

Philadelphia KiXX

Coach: Don D'Ambra.

Last season: 24-12; eliminated by Blast in one-game conference final.

Outlook: Strong throughout last year's regular season as the defending MISL titlist, the KiXX hit an unexpected snag in the playoffs with an 8--6 setback to the Blast. Now what? With stellar play from All-Star goalkeeper Peter Pappas a given and a hard-working group in front of him, expect the KiXX to rebound strong and give the Blast a major push. Pappas keeps the KiXX in almost every game, and there's a handful of capable finishers in player/coach Don D'Ambra and veterans Kevin Sloan and Goran Vasic. Defender Shawn Boney, 6 feet 7 and 265 pounds, is tough to get around and is a dangerous option on restarts with a heavy shot. Target forward Chris Handsor, traded to the Blast in the offseason, may be sorely missed.

Central Division

Kansas City Comets

Coach: Zoran Savic.

Last season: 17-19; eliminated by Milwaukee in one-game conference final.

Outlook: Much of the same has come from the Comets the past few seasons: lots of goals scored, but lots of goals allowed. The result has been an entertaining team with moderate success. Offensively, you can't find a better forward Dino Delevski, the league's scoring champion and MVP the past two seasons. He scored 50 goals and had 32 assists in 32 games last year and demands special attention every time he's on the floor. He also has a new weapon to work with this season in Jamar Beasley, who played outdoors with Major League Soccer's New England Revolution and Chicago Fire. Former Harrisburg defender Matt Tanzini and ex-San Diego Socker goalkeeper D.J. Horvath will try to help shore up a defense that allowed a league-high 224 goals last season. Veteran defenders Wes Wade and Jeff Davis, along with midfielder Nate Houser, return.

Milwaukee Wave

Coach: Keith Tozer.

Last season: 28-8; eliminated by Blast, 2-1, in best-of-three MISL finals.

Outlook: Not once, but twice has the Wave dominated the regular season to gain the home field only to lose the deciding game in the championship round. Last season's 13-12 setback to the Blast was twice as painful as no lesson seems to have been learned from the loss to Philadelphia the year before and, this time, the Wave uncharacteristically collapsed after building a 12-4 lead late in the third quarter. Except for the departure of legendary goalkeeper Victor Nogueira, who moved on to the San Diego Sockers after 11 stellar seasons in Milwaukee, the Wave's roster remains largely intact. Top to bottom, it remains the best in the league with Joe Reiniger, Greg Howes and Todd Dusosky leading the offense and Lovelace Ackah, Troy Dusosky and Pat White the stalwarts on defense. Ex-San Diego Socker Nick Vorberg joins Dan Green in goal and talented defender Chris Morman comes over from Kansas City.

St. Louis Steamers

Coach: Daryl Doran.

Last season: New league entry

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