National Professional Soccer League 1995-96 preview

THE BALTIMORE SUN

American Division

Baltimore Spirit

Coach: Dave MacWilliams, 2nd season (23-17).

Last season: 23-17, 3rd in division; lost to Harrisburg in division semifinals.

Key players: Leading scorer Kevin Sloan; goalies Cris Vaccaro and Joe Mallia; playmaker Franklin McIntosh; newcomers Zak Ibsen and Bobby Joe Esposito.

Outlook: Sloan, who had a career-high 165 points last season, and McIntosh, Ibsen and Esposito are expected to lead the offense. Omid Namazi and Vaccaro anchor the defense. The Spirit, which was eliminated by Harrisburg in the first round of the playoffs the past three years, will need strong play at the end of the regular season to advance farther this time.

Buffalo Blizzard

Coach: Jim May, 2nd season, 1st full season (19-18).

Last season:Last season: 20-20, fourth in division; lost in division semifinals to Cleveland.

Key players: Paul Dougherty, sixth-leading NPSL scorer; brothers Rudy and Randy Pikuzinski; Gino DiFlorio.

Outlook: Buffalo will have to overcome its Cleveland syndrome after losing to the Crunch in each of the past three playoffs. The Blizzard will get points from the perennially high-scoring Pikuzinskis and DiFlorio, a three-time 100-point scorer. Pat Harrington is trying to reclaim his goalkeeper's job after missing most of last season with injuries.

Canton Invaders

Coach: Denzil Antonio, 2nd season (6-34).

Last season: 6-34, 6th in division.

Key players: All-Star forward Marcelo Carrera; goalkeeper Chris Damico; defenders Antonio and Neil Gilbert.

Outlook: The offense revolves around Carrera, who scored a team-high 49 goals and 131 points. The Invaders are in their 12th NPSL season and have won five championships, but have lost their touch. They haven't qualified for the playoffs the past three years.

Cincinnati Silverbacks

Coach: Gary Hindley, 1st season with Cincinnati; 5th in NPSL (81-48).

Last season (as Dayton Dynamo): 15-25, 5th in division.

Key players: Goalkeepers Carlos Pena and Mark Simpson; second-team All-NPSL forward Dennis Brose.

Outlook: The team is built around Pena, Simpson and Brose, who was fourth in the NPSL in scoring with 191 points and second in goals with 86. The club moved after six seasons in Dayton and was renamed the Silverbacks, after a gorilla with a silver streak on its back. The franchise hasn't reached the playoffs since 1991.

Cleveland Crunch

Coach: Bruce Miller, 1st season.

Last season: 30-10, 1st in division; lost in division final to Harrisburg.

Key players: First-team All-NPSL forwards Hector Marinaro and Zoran Karic; Rookie of the Year Henri Gutierrez; All-Star goalie Otto Orf.

Outlook: Marinaro and Karic lead the most potent offense in the league. Marinaro captured his second scoring title and MVP award with 99 goals and 255 points, and Karic was second in scoring with 241. The Crunch needs a good second year from Gutierrez, who set an NPSL rookie record with 114 points.

Harrisburg Heat

Coach: Jim Pollihan, 5th season (88-72).

Last season: 23-17, 2nd in division; lost in NPSL final to St. Louis.

Key players: Scorers Danny Kelly, Mark Pulisic, David Bascome and Bill Becher; defender and captain Richard Chinapoo and goalie Scoop Stanisic.

Outlook: The Heat will have to do it the same way it did last season, with teamwork. The club had no players on the All-Rookie or All-NPSL team, but had four players with 100-plus points and reached the NPSL title game.

Tampa Bay Terror

Coach: Kenny Cooper, 1st season, 3rd in NPSL (53-27 with Baltimore).

Last season: Expansion team.

Key players: Goalies Bill Andracki and Doug Petras; John Garvey; defenders Perry Van Derbeck and Brian Thiel.

Outlook: Ex-Spirit coach Cooper will need a lot of scoring from Garvey if Jon Parry doesn't play. Parry, the Spirit's No. 2 scorer last season who was obtained by Tampa Bay in the NPSL expansion draft, has been suspended because he hasn't reported. In a four-team tournament last weekend, the Terror lost to Kansas City, 18-8, and defending NPSL champion St. Louis, 21-18, and beat Wichita, 14-11.

National Division

Chicago Power

Coach: Alkis Panagoulias, 1st season.

Last season: 6-34, 6th in division.

Key players: Ken Snow, the NPSL's No. 14 scorer last season; Tony Sanneh, a first-team All-Rookie forward.

Outlook: Panagoulias, former Greek Olympic and national team coach, is completely rebuilding the club. The Power has signed only Snow and Sanneh, but there is time since the team doesn't open until Nov. 4. The Power finished third in an exhibition tournament, behind Milwaukee and Cincinnati and ahead of Detroit.

Detroit Rockers

Coach: Pato Margetic, 2nd season, 1st full season (14-9).

Last season: 18-22, 4th in division; lost in division semifinals to St. Louis.

Key players: Margetic and goalkeeper Bryan Finnerty.

Outlook: The Rockers have reached the playoffs in four of their five NPSL seasons, including 1991-92, when they won the league title. The offense centers on Margetic, who was 11th in the NPSL in scoring (147 points) and third in assists (62). All-Star goalie Finnerty (12.86 points allowed per game) heads the defense.

Kansas City Attack

Coach: Zoran Savic, 4th season (69-51).

Last season: 29-11, 2nd in division; lost in division final to St. Louis.

Key players: Second-team All-NPSL forward Goran Hunjak; third-team All-NPSL midfielder Wes Wade; third-team All-NPSL goalie Warren Westcoat; National Division All-Star game MVP Brian Haynes.

Outlook: The Attack figures to be strong again with key returnees Hunjak (69 goals, 181 points), Wade (153 points), Westcoat and Haynes. Former All-NPSL forward Kevin Koetters is back after an injury-shortened season. After missing the playoffs in 1993-94, Kansas City rebounded from a 14-26 record to a 29-11, the best turnaround in league history.

Milwaukee Wave

Coach: Keith Tozer, 4th season (60-60); 10th in NPSL (204-143).

Last season: 23-17, 3rd in division; lost in division semifinals to Kansas City.

Key players: Goalie Victor Nogueira; former NPSL Defender of the Year Matt Knowles; captain Michael King; Steve Morris; Don D'Ambra.

St. Louis Ambush

Coach: Daryl Doran, 4th season (67-37); NPSL Coach of the Year in 1993-94.

Last season: 30-10; won NPSL championship.

Key players: Five-time NPSL Goalkeeper of the Year Jamie Swanner; Mark Moser (195 points); defender Kevin Hundelt; player-coach Doran.

Outlook: The defending champions are solid. Swanner led the league in wins (25) for the fifth time and Moser was third in the league in goals (89) and accumulated a dazzling 60 points in the playoffs. Forward Joe Reiniger, No. 13 in the NPSL in points (133), returns.

Wichita Wings

Coach: Kim Roentved, 2nd season (17-23).

Last season: 17-23, 5th in division.

Key players: Roentved; goalie Kris Peat.

Outlook: Peat, who allowed 13.09 points a game, and defender-coach Roentved, who scored 97 points, lead the defense. The offense will have to replace the team-leading 39 goals of John Garvey, who was taken by Tampa Bay in the expansion draft.

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