Meola may debut against Spirit

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Tony Meola, U.S. World Cup goalkeeper and team captain, might make his National Professional Soccer League debut against the Spirit.

Meola, signed last week by the Buffalo Blizzard, could be in the goal tomorrow night when the Blizzard entertains the Spirit. Buffalo coach Jim May said yesterday that he hadn't decided if Meola will dress for the game, but indicated it was a possibility.

Meola, the U.S. starting goalie in 1990 and 1994 World Cup play, had a four-week tryout for the New York Jets' place-kicking job before deciding to venture into indoor soccer.

"Meola gives Buffalo and the NPSL enormous credibility," said Spirit vice president Drew Forrester. "He's the most recognizable U.S. player. With time and commitment, he'll be a real good indoor goalie. Certainly nothing will rattle him, not after playing before 100,000 fans and on worldwide TV."

The Spirit offered contracts to two other U.S. players, forward Frank Klopas and defender Fernando Clavijo, but neither could make a season-long commitment. The Spirit didn't want players even of their stature as part-timers.

Meola, the goalie for NCAA co-champion Virginia in 1989 and winner of the Herrmann Award that year as the best college soccer player, joins Pat Harrington and Rob Marinaro as Buffalo's goalies.

"I've always enjoyed the indoor game," said Meola, a Kearny, N.J., resident. "This is the smartest thing for me to do. I enjoy the atmosphere of this team."

Wittman suspended, fined

Spirit captain Tim Wittman, thrown out of Saturday's win over the Harrisburg Heat for fighting with Danny Kelly, will miss tomorrow night's game in Buffalo under the NPSL's automatic one-game suspension rule after a red-card ejection. He was fined an undisclosed amount.

In explaining why he was drawn into a fight, Wittman said, "The refs kept giving them power plays and Harrisburg kept coming back [scoring]. I got frustrated. I didn't do it all by myself, you know. It takes two [to fight]."

Rockers' Tinnion resigns

Brian Tinnion, the only coach in the Detroit Rockers' five-year history, will resign Dec. 31 to take the Eastern Michigan University job. Pato Margetic, acquired as a midfielder during the offseason, will become player-coach.

Tinnion led Detroit to a 95-93 record and the NPSL championship in 1992. Margetic's record in four seasons as the Chicago Power's player-coach was 96-74, including two National Division titles and the 1991 NPSL championship.

Margetic and Tinnion shared NPSL Coach of the Year honors for the 1990-91 season. While Margetic directed Chicago to the title, Tinnion led the expansion Rockers to a 22-18 record and a playoff berth.

Stitz's scoring up

The Spirit's Barry Stitz, who had 30 points in 38 games last season, already has 27 in the first 15, thanks to a regular role and increased playing time. He had 63 points as a rookie in 1992-93.

Miscellaneous

Spirit goalie Cris Vaccaro is probable for Buffalo despite a sore back. . . . Wichita Wings goalie Kris Peat was named NPSL Player of the Week after totaling 30 saves in 12-11 and 12-9 victories. . . . The league's top three foulers are the Spirit's Lance Johnson (56), Stitz (51) and Brad Smith (46). . . . The Spirit Reserves (2-0), a farm team of 12 local players, will play Casa Mia's (2-0) tomorrow night in the Premier Unlimited League at Du Burns Arena. Matt Ruopp had five points in last week's 9-4 win over Arsenal. . . . Detroit defender Sean Bowers broke the NPSL one-game record for blocks with 17 in an overtime loss to the Dayton Dynamo. The nine-year-old record was 12 by the Canton Invaders' Oscar Pisano. . . . St. Louis Ambush coach-defender Daryl Doran tied the NPSL record for assists (seven) in an 18-16 win over the Cleveland Crunch. Cleveland's Hector Marinaro set the mark Dec. 9.

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