Spirit signs three, but Koziol holding out

Three Spirit newcomers are signed up, but veteran Joe Koziol is holding out.

On the fifth day of training camp at Du Burns Arena yesterday, the Spirit announced the signing of forward Tarik Walker, a graduate of Virginia Tech and Good Counsel High in Wheaton, and forward Rob Ukrop, who led the nation in scoring last season at Davidson College, to one-year contracts; and midfielder Clark Brisson, who spent '91-92, his rookie season, with the Canton Invaders before taking last year off, to a two-year deal.


Koziol, 26, a Loyola High graduate, was the Spirit's No. 3 scorer last season with 103 points, behind Goran Hunjak and Rusty Troy. Koziol, an assistant coach at Loyola College, wants a larger salary increase than the Spirit is offering.

"We can't give him what he wants," coach Kenny Cooper said. "We have to be fiscally responsible. We haven't reached agreement, but we haven't closed the door either."


Said Koziol's agent, Mike Powers: "As far as we're concerned, the door is closed. Joe will retire. It's an insignificant amount of money we're talking about. It's incredible when you take into account what the club has done for other players. The Spirit hasn't budged one inch."

Walker has been one of the most impressive rookies in camp. At 6 feet 2, 187 pounds, he has the size to be what Cooper calls a "target man," a heavy-duty forward who sometimes plays with his back to the goal. Troy and newcomer Dan O'Keefe also are target men. O'Keefe, the National Professional Soccer League's all-time leading scorer, was acquired from the St. Louis Ambush.

"Tarik looks more comfortable already than he did during our tryout camp a few weeks ago," said assistant coach Mike Stankovic. "He has a nice touch, ball control and great physical ability. We look for big guys who are good athletes, and have a strong drive to win, and Tarik is one of those."

Walker spent part of last summer playing for the Baltimore Bays in the U.S. Interregional Soccer League. Despite missing two games with chickenpox, he led the Bays in scoring with five goals and one assist. He was selected by the Spirit in the second round of the NPSL draft in July.

"I feel like I'm getting better every day," Walker said. "It's a matter of getting used to the other players and the speed of the game, which is a lot faster than the outdoor [game].

"There's more attention to positioning. Because the game is faster, you can't rely on your ability to catch up after missing something, so you have to be in the right spots. This is the first time I've played indoors at this level."