The Cleveland Crunch isn't sure which label to pin on Hector Marinaro in the playoffs. What is this guy, a hero or a goat?
Marinaro, the National Professional Soccer League's scoring champion with 255 points, played a major role not only in Cleveland's opening win but in its second-game loss in the American Division semifinals against the Buffalo Blizzard. The Crunch won Game 3 last night to advance to the American Division final.
Marinaro gave a typical performance in the opener, tying the NPSL playoff record with six goals and adding two assists in Cleveland's 22-10 romp. Zoran Karic, the other half of the Crunch's one-two punch, had a goal and a playoff-tying five assists as Cleveland defeated Buffalo for the sixth time in seven meetings.
Then, in Game 2, Marinaro did something totally out of character. He beat his own team.
Oh, he was his usual prolific self, scoring four goals and adding an assist. But 14 seconds into overtime, after Buffalo had rallied from deficits of 17-10 at halftime and 19-13 early in the fourth quarter to tie it at 19 at the end of regulation, Marinaro inadvertently kicked the ball into his own goal.
Result? A 21-19 victory for Buffalo. The Blizzard's Rudy Pikuzinski was credited with the game-winner, not because he did anything constructive but because he happened to be standing closest to the goal at the time.
Hector giveth and Hector taketh away.
Cooper's a Terror
The NPSL's Tampa Bay expansion franchise that will begin play next season has been christened the Terror. Headed by former Spirit coach Kenny Cooper, Tampa Bay conducted a name-the-team contest, drawing 1,000 entries. Other popular suggestions: Shooters and Thunder.
"One reason we picked Terror was because of the shark-infested waters here," said player/assistant coach Perry VanDerbeck. "Our logo has a shark coming out of the water with its nose and teeth pointed at the O in Terror, which is drawn as a soccer ball."
Cooper will be the president and general manager and, perhaps, the coach as well, just as he was with the Spirit.
After stepping down as Spirit coach after last year's playoff loss to the Harrisburg Heat, Cooper said, "This doesn't necessarily mean I'll never coach again."
Will he coach the Terror, at least in its maiden season? After noting that a decision probably will be made within a month, assistant GM Rui Farias chuckled and answered, "If I had to guess, I'd say yes."
Ambush, Attack meet
The National Division final matches the St. Louis Ambush against the Kansas City Attack in a best-of-five series opening tonight. In advancing to its third straight division final, St. Louis swept the Detroit Rockers, 2-0.
Kansas City eliminated the Milwaukee Wave, 2-1, winning the last two after dropping the opener. The Wave's leading scorer, ex-Spirit Michael King, sent the opener into overtime with a goal with 53 seconds left. In the third game, a 16-9 K.C. victory, King sat out with back spasms.
1984 revisited: Five men in the Spirit-Harrisburg playoff were teammates on the 1984 Blast's Major Indoor Soccer League championship club -- coach Dave MacWilliams and players Tim Wittman and Mike Stankovic from the Spirit, and coach Jim Pollihan and player/assistant coach Richard Chinapoo from the Heat. . . . The Spirit finished the regular season as the NPSL's most penalized team with 344 minutes to only 254 for its opponents. Kansas City was second with 337 minutes.