The Spirit has soothed Clark Brisson's itch to return to indoor soccer.
After sitting out last year when he couldn't come to contract terms with the Canton Invaders, Brisson chafed last winter while working for a computer company in Charleston, S.C. He then played last summer for the Battery, Charleston's team in the outdoor U.S. Interregional Soccer League, but that wasn't enough.
"I had the itch to play indoors again after sitting out a year," Brisson said. "I called the Spirit. I was a walk-on in the last year of the Blast, at their camp in September 1991, but things didn't work out."
This time, things did work out. Entering today's road game against the Cleveland Crunch, Brisson is the Spirit's No. 3 scorer with 23 points behind Paul Wright and Tim Wittman. He has two game-winning goals, one in a victory over Cleveland, and has accumulated 18 points in his last seven games.
Brisson and the Spirit have proved to be a good fit. He came out of South Carolina in 1991 as a first-team All-American, but the Blast was well-stocked with players that fall and didn't need him.
Coach Kenny Copper suggested that he try the National Professional Soccer League. As a rookie with Canton, Brisson was second to Kia on the team in points with 92.
"The next year, Canton and I couldn't seem to get together," Brisson said. "That's when Charleston called and said they'd help me get the job with a computer firm if I'd play in the summer for the Battery."
Lance Johnson, a Spirit rookie who played for the USISL's Delaware Wizards, remembers his team's game against the Battery.
"Clark was one of their most skilled players," Johnson said. "He was deceptive, a good dribbler."
In Spirit training camp, Brisson, 24, impressed Cooper with his short, fast steps and quick shot and the way he could control the ball and keep it close to his body.
When Rob Ukrop broke his jaw and Dan O'Keefe injured his knee, Cooper moved Brisson to target man, a forward who frequently plays with his back to the goal and must be able to absorb physical punishment. He shares time at the position with Tarik Walker and Barry Stitz.
"As a target man, you should score," Brisson said. "You get chances, you have to take advantage of them. You're almost obligated to score."
Brisson is fulfilling that obligation rather nicely.
Opponent: Cleveland Crunch
Site: Cleveland State University Convention Center
Time: 3:05 p.m.
Radio: WWLG (1360 AM)
Outlook: By winning, Cleveland (9-3) would muscle into a tie with the Spirit for first place in the NPSL's American Division. The Spirit has lost two straight after a 10-0 start. The Crunch, which has a three-game winning streak, is 6-0 at home. The Spirit is the league's only team with a winning road record (3-1). Dan O'Keefe is doubtful with a sprained knee, G Cris Vaccaro is probable despite a strained hamstring and reserve G Shawn Boehmcke is questionable with a sprained big toe. The Crunch has two of the NPSL's top three scorers in Zoran Karic (95) and Hector Marinaro (66).