Mike Stankovic, a 15-year indoor soccer veteran, is expected to become the Spirit's coach today.
Stankovic, 39, would replace Dave MacWilliams, who stepped down Monday, saying he couldn't motivate the team to play with enthusiasm.
"Drew and I met and talked, but nothing has been finalized," Stankovic said of discussions last night with general manager Drew Forrester. "We have to think about things. There are still disagreements, but I hope we can resolve them."
A defender and the Spirit's No. 3 scorer this season with 66 points, Stankovic would continue to play. There are several other player/head coaches in the National Professional Soccer League.
Stankovic was an assistant coach and sometime player under Kenny Cooper during the Spirit's first two seasons. He was a candidate for the head coaching job that went to MacWilliams in August 1994, and he joined the team as a player in midseason.
A member of the current team from the outset, he is having a banner season. It is his first full season since 1990-91.
Forrester talked yesterday to four candidates -- Stankovic, assistant coach/goalie Cris Vaccaro and two men from out of town whom the GM declined to name. Forrester did not solicit the candidacies of the two out-of-towners, he said. They called and asked that their names be withheld for fear of jeopardizing their current jobs.
"What we expect is a team that works harder, plays together as a team and shows energy and enthusiasm," Forrester said. "That has been missing the last four weeks."
The Spirit has lost five of its past six and eight of its past 11 to drop from second to fourth place in the NPSL's American Division. MacWilliams' frustration reached a peak when the Spirit lost one-point decisions last weekend to the Chicago Power, which has the worst record (3-21) in the league, and the Wichita Wings, who lost to Baltimore by 13 points four days before.
"If a new coach can't inject emotion, passion and energy into the players, maybe they should be doing something else," Forrester said. "I'm not questioning the performers, just the performances."
Two players whose diligence and devotion to the franchise Forrester doesn't question are Jason Dieter and Barry Stitz, both native Baltimoreans.
"Some guys just put the uniform on and go out and play," Forrester said. "When Jason puts his on, his heart pounds -- Barry's, too. And Dave's did when he played for the Blast, and that's what frustrated him most -- too many of the players didn't have that feeling."
Owner Bill Stealey and Forrester say they want the same thing MacWilliams wanted -- players concerned about the franchise off the field as well as on it, who arrive for practice early instead of just on time or late and are respectful of the coach.
MacWilliams, as a Blast player, was and Stitz, Dieter and Stankovic are all of these things. Forrester says some of the other current players are not.