Gelnovatch blends into Bays' lineup


Gary Hindley, the coach of the Maryland Bays, is keeping an eye on some delicate chemistry experiments this week.

National team players Jeff Agoos, Desmond Armstrong and Bruce Murray practiced with the Bays for the first time this week, vTC and Hindley is most interested to see how they mix in with the defending American Professional Soccer League champions.

One ingredient has already been successfully added. George Gelnovatch was signed to a Bays contract in mid-April, and he's performed ably at stopper in a 2-0 exhibition win over the Blast and last week's season-opening 2-1 road victory against the Penn-Jersey Spirit.

The competition improves tomorrow (7:05 p.m.) at Cedar Lane Park in Columbia, when the Bays play their home opener against the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, the team they swept in last year's ASL championship series.

Thus far, Gelnovatch has moved into the lineup without a hitch, taking over at stopper from Jeff Nattans, whom Hindley said still figures in the Bays' plans. The irony isn't lost on Gelnovatch, whose career at the University of Virginia was unceremoniously ended in 1986 in a 1-0 loss to Loyola in the NCAA tournament.

The Cavaliers were ranked No. 1 in the nation, and Gelnovatch was looking to add to his 49 career goals, still the No. 2 all-time total for the Cavaliers. Instead, the lone goal was assisted by Joe Barger, now a member of the Bays, following a long throw-in by none other than Nattans. Sam Mangione, the third Greyhound playing for the Bays, got kudos for neutralizing John Harkes, who's now making history in Britain's Football Association.

"Once in a while, those guys get a little dig in," said Gelnovatch, who left the NCAA playoff game in the closing minutes with an injury. "I still lose sleep over that game."

Gelnovatch was an All-American striker as a senior, and his mind-set is the same as the other members of the Bays' backfield, since sweeper Chris Reif and outside backs Nattans and Darryl Gee enjoyed their first acclaim as goal scorers. He spent a season and a half with the Minnesota Strikers in the MSL, and was an APSL all-star defender for Penn-Jersey in 1990.

"Jean Harbor [the Bays' striker] said that Gelnovatch was the one guy in the league he had the most trouble with," said Hindley, who attended the same high school on the Jersey shore, Wall Township, as Gelnovatch. "George is versatile, a very cool head with the ball, and I also like the fact that he knows the game from both sides."

A rugged 6 feet 2, 190 pounds, Gelnovatch could surface in the United States National Team pool of players, but he's looking ahead to a different career in the game. He makes his home in Charlottesville, where he's in his second year as an assistant coach to Bruce Arena.

"In the fall, I train with them [the Cavaliers] every day," said Gelnovatch, who's 26. "Eventually, I want to get into coaching full time, but I'm not done playing yet."

Bays preview


* WHEN: Tomorrow, 7:05 p.m.

* WHERE: Cedar Lane Park, Columbia.

* OUTLOOK: This is the first of 11 home games for the Bays, who will play four of them at RFK Stadium. It's a rematch of last year's American Soccer League two-game title series, which the Bays swept. The Strikers beat the Miami Freedom 3-1 last week, as all-star defender Steve Pittman had two goals. The Bays opened with a 2-1 win at Penn-Jersey, but three of their offseason acquisitions were in Denver, starting for the national team in its 1-0 defeat of Uruguay. Bruce Murray most likely will replace the injured Michael Brady at midfield. Jeff Agoos is also available at midfield and back, and back Desmond Armstrong is nursing a foot injury.

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