Coach Dave MacWilliams called his players "lifeless." He said they stopped playing. He said they didn't put out even 70 percent.
Because of that, because he was so angry about the Spirit's lack of effort in last Friday's 20-6 thrashing by the Buffalo Blizzard, MacWilliams stepped up the practice pace this week. He conducted two-a-days Monday and yesterday and might again today. Indeed, he might hold double practices at least once a week the rest of the season.
"If I have to make practices so hard that games seem easy, I will," MacWilliams said. "Every game isn't must-win, but it is must-work. When we fell behind 6-2 after the first quarter, I knew we were in trouble. We were lifeless. That's what upset me."
The Spirit displayed the same trait a time or two early in the season. MacWilliams thought it had been eradicated. In Buffalo, it reappeared.
"When things don't go right, these guys sometimes get their heads down," MacWilliams said. "This game has momentum swings, and as long as you fight and work, you're always in the game. Collectively, we didn't do that. Or individually, either."
NPSL fines 15 for melee
Fifteen players and coaches were fined by the National Professional Soccer League for their roles in a melee in the final minute of the St. Louis Ambush's 18-17 win over the Cleveland Crunch.
Cleveland defender Oscar Draguicevich and St. Louis forward Steve Maurer were suspended for one game and fined. Cleveland's league MVP last season, Zoran Karic, who was ejected early in the game, was suspended for two games and fined for returning to the field and participating in the altercation.
Wittman still suspended
Tim Wittman, suspended by MacWilliams for insubordination on the bench during a road loss to the Dayton Dynamo, missed last week's game in Buffalo and will miss Saturday's here against the Wichita Wings and Sunday's at Dayton. After conferring with Wittman Tuesday, MacWilliams will decide whether to lift the suspension.
"I need to hear certain things from him, like whether he'll conform to the way I want things done," MacWilliams said. "He tends to do his own thing at times. He's intense and emotional, and needs to control that."
Bill Becher is NPSL Player of the Week after compiling 13 points in the Harrisburg Heat's two-game sweep of the Canton Invaders. . . . The Spirit's Lance Johnson (groin muscle strain) is questionable for the Wichita game and Brad Smith (sprained knee) is probable. . . . Ex-Blast Iain Fraser, second in the NPSL in blocks, will miss one Kansas City Attack game to play for the Canadian national team, returning in time to face the Spirit on Jan. 27. . . . The Spirit Reserves, a farm team, suffered their first loss, to the Baltimore Colts, 8-2, in the Maryland Premier Unlimited League, dropping into a tie for first with Casa Mia's at 4-1. The Reserves will face F.T.Q. tomorrow at 9 p.m. at Du Burns Arena. . . . Draft choices Chad Carithers of College of Charleston and Ian Saward of Dartmouth have been invited by the Spirit to practices next week for a look. Matt Kmosko of Hartwick, drafted by Buffalo, has been given permission by the Blizzard to work out, too, since that team has no immediate openings.