Pete Caringi withdrew from consideration for the Spirit coaching job after signing a five-year contract with UMBC yesterday.
The withdrawal of Caringi, who in three years at UMBC has twice tied the school single-season record of 15 victories, narrows the Spirit's search to Dallas Sidekicks assistant Billy Phillips and ex-Blast forward Dave MacWilliams.
"I was intrigued by the Spirit job," said Caringi, a Calvert Hall and University of Baltimore graduate who coached for 10 years at Essex Community College before arriving at UMBC. "But UMBC has done such a fantastic job of supporting the soccer program that I wanted to renew my commitment to it."
UMBC's athletic director, Charles Brown, said Caringi was given the long contract because of "his fabulous job" that has put the school on track toward the national Top 20.
"He was courted by the Spirit and we didn't want to lose him," Brown said. "He's a hot commodity. All aspects of his coaching are outstanding. He knows we're committed to soccer and we now know he's committed to UMBC."
Caringi, captain of UB's 1975 NCAA Division II championship team, had a 170-27-8 record at Essex and was twice NJCAA Coach of the Year after taking the team to the national junior college championship game.
In 1990 he directed the Maryland Bays to a 20-5 record and the American Professional Soccer League championship. In three years at UMBC he is 41-17-2 after directing the Retrievers to a 15-3-1 record last fall. They won their final 10 regular-season games and lost to eventual champion North Carolina-Greensboro in the Big South Conference semifinals.
MacWilliams will meet this weekend with Spirit owner Bill Stealey and vice president Drew Forrester to discuss the coach's off-season as well as in-season responsibilities.
MacWilliams owns and operates several boardwalk french fries stands in his native Philadelphia, coaches and plays for an over-30 team and conducts soccer camps. He coached the Penn-Jersey Spirit in the summer American Professional Soccer League for two seasons.
"We need the new coach on board no later than Aug. 15," Forrester said. "We have a minicamp in mid- August and regular camp opens Sept. 19."
After extensive talks with the Spirit, Phillips has reservations, not the least of which is whether he should pull up his family's Dallas roots for what could be only a two-year Spirit contract. And he would like to finish the summer season with the Sidekicks, which would mean he wouldn't be in Baltimore until mid-September.