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In League's 10th Season, a First: Teams That Finished Are Back

November 06, 1987|MARC APPLEMAN | Times Staff Writer

SAN DIEGO — As the Major Indoor Soccer League celebrates its 10th anniversary this season, the league welcomes back all the teams that finished the previous season.

In many sports, that's no big deal. In the MISL, it's a first.

The New York Express folded during last season, the Wichita Wings almost folded at the end of last season and the Minnesota Strikers were almost forced to take a year off. But Wichita and Minnesota are back. Therefore, the 11 teams that concluded the 1986-87 season are back.

And for the first time since they joined the MISL, the San Diego Sockers are not the defending champions. San Diego had its streak of five straight indoor titles (1981-82 and 1983-84 in the North American Soccer League and 1982-83, 1984-85 and 1985-86 in the MISL) ended by the Tacoma Stars in the Western Division championship series, 4 games to 3.

The Dallas Sidekicks beat Tacoma in seven games in the league championship series, and about 10,000 people attended a ticker-tape parade in downtown Dallas.

Said Socker Coach Ron Newman: "When we went downtown to celebrate our fourth championship, we had more people in the bus than there were fans. Complacency was here in San Diego. After we won our fifth championship, there was no celebration."

This season, there appears to be more parity. There was a lot of off-season player movement, in part because the salary cap of $1.275 million per team forced some of the top teams to release good players and allow others to become free agents when their contracts expired.

The following is a team-by-team look at the league:

WESTERN DIVISION Tacoma Stars

Last season's record: 35-17

Finish: First

Coach: Alan Hinton

Outlook: The Stars had the best record in the MISL last season. In the final game of the league championship series, they led Dallas, 3-1, with 2:38 to play but still lost, 4-3. Tacoma set an MISL record for blocked shots with 753 last year and acquired from Cleveland defender Bernie James, who led the league in blocked shots with 138. Star defender Neil Megson was second in the league with 134 blocked shots. The Stars also acquired forward Peter Ward from the Force. Tacoma cut midfielders Fran O'Brien and David Norman and lost free agent goalkeeper Joe Papaleo to Dallas. Goalkeeper Mike Dowler returned from a knee injury to go 3-1 with a 2.78 goals-against average in the regular season and 5-5 with a 5.02 GAA during the playoffs. On offense, Steve Zungul (42 goals, 47 assists), Preki (41 goals, 47 assists), Godfrey Ingram (52 goals, 29 assists) and Gary Heale (46 goals, 24 assists) return.

Kansas City Comets

Last season's record: 28-24

Finish: Second

Coach: Dave Clements

Outlook: After Dave Clements replaced Rick Benben as coach last season, the Comets had an 18-10 record and a 10-game winning streak. In the division semifinals, they pushed the Sockers to five games before losing. Clements was selected Coach of the Year. Despite a successful season, the Comets made quite a few changes. Kansas City acquired a six-time all-star defender, Kim Roentved, a free agent from Wichita. Roentved is the highest scoring defender in the history of the league with 183 goals and 150 assists in seven seasons. Sidelined by a knee injury last year, Roentved had just 14 goals and 24 assists while playing half of the season. Barry Wallace, a free agent from Wichita, joined the Comets after scoring a career-high 25 goals and 38 points last season. Other additions include forward Armando Betancourt from Honduras, former St. Louis midfielder Duncan MacEwan and forward Kia, who played with Canton the past three seasons and is the all-time leading scorer in the American Indoor Soccer Assn. The Comets released forwards Pato Margetic and Louie Nanchoff, defenders Tim Clark, Jorge Espinoza and Gary Collier and midfielder Charlie Fajkus. Returning are goalkeeper Alan Mayer (22-166, 4.19 GAA) and forwards Jan Goossens (second in the league in scoring with 51 goals and 44 assists for 95 points) and Dale Mitchell (51 goals and 24 assists).

San Diego Sockers

Last season's record: 27-25

Finish: Third

Coach: Ron Newman

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