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

November 06, 1987|MARC APPLEMAN | Times Staff Writer

Outlook: The Force made some key changes after losing to Dallas in the conference finals last season. In a trade of talented goalkeepers, the Force sent Chris Vaccaro (20-9, 4.02 GAA last year) to Chicago for Victor Nogueira (14-16, 4.89). Cleveland also acquired a 1988 second-round draft pick, and Chicago got a 1988 first-round pick. The Force traded defender Bernie James, who led the league in blocked shots with 138, and forward Peter Ward (26 goals, 15 assists) to Tacoma for the Stars' first-round draft pick, forward Glenn Lurie from Seattle Pacific, and Tacoma's first-round picks in 1988 and '89 and its third-round pick in 1990. Joining the Force are rookie defender Brian Bliss, a two-time All-American from Southern Connecticut State University; rookie defender Francis Okaroh of Boston University, and former Sting forward Elias Zurita. Goalkeeper P.J. Johns (14-8, 4.05 GAA) is expected to platoon with Nogueira. Midfielder Kai Haaskivi returns after leading the Force in scoring with 34 goals and 55 assists for 89 points last year.

Baltimore Blast

Last season's record: 33-19

Finish: Second

Coach: Kenny Cooper

Outlook: Forward Stan Stamenkovic returns after a one-year retirement in Yugoslavia, where he opened a pizza shop and realized he missed playing soccer. One of the league's top scoring threats, Stamenkovic had 37 goals and 44 assists for 81 points in 1985-86. The Blast acquired defender Helmut Dudek from Minnesota for future considerations and signed free agent defender Mike Uremodich of Dallas. Free agent midfielder Mike Stankovic went to Wichita, forward Paul Child signed with Los Angeles, and the Blast did not re-sign forward Dave MacWilliams. Goalkeepers Keith Van Eron (15-6, 3.92 GAA) and Scott Manning (4-9, 3.47 GAA) and leading scorer Drago (34 goals, 30 assists) return.

Dallas Sidekicks

Last season's record: 28-24

Finish: Third

Coach: Gordon Jago

Outlook: The MISL champions signed free agent goalkeeper Joe Papaleo (22-9, 3.98 GAA with Tacoma) to platoon with veteran Krys Sobieski (24-19, 3.45 GAA). Former Los Angeles forward Stuart Lee (31 goals, 10 assists) signed as a free agent. Also on the front line are Tatu, who led the MISL in scoring with 73 goals and 38 assists for 111 points, and Willie Molano, who had 7 goals and 5 assists in 14 games after being acquired from the Lazers. Dallas also signed former Lazer midfielder Beto, former Minnesota midfielder Mike Jeffries and midfielder Mark Lugris of the Fort Wayne Flames in the American Indoor Soccer Assn. All were free agents. Midfielder Scott Bell, a fourth-round draft pick from William & Mary, joins the team. Cut from the club were midfielders Mickey Kydes and Perry Van Der Beck, goalkeeper Mark White and defender Hayden Knight.

Minnesota Strikers

Last season's record: 26-26

Finish: Fourth

Coach: Alan Merrick

Outlook: After much speculation during the summer that the team might be forced to take a year break for financial reasons, the Strikers are back. Former Cleveland midfielder Mike Sweeney and former Los Angeles goalkeeper Tim Harris joined the team as free agents. Two fourth-round draft picks, defender Troy Snyder of Penn State and forward George Gelnovatch of Virginia, made the team. The Strikers released defender Dan Center and midfielder Mike Jeffries and lost free agent goalkeeper Matt Kennedy to Wichita. They traded defender Helmut Dudek to Baltimore for future considerations. Goalkeeper Tino Lettieri, on the trading block for much of the off-season, returns after going 15-19 with a league-leading and record-setting 3.38 GAA last season. Forwards Steve Kinsey (31 goals, 24 assists) and Alan Willey (32 goals, 18 assists) return to pace the Strikers' low-scoring attack.

Chicago Sting

Last season's record: 23-29

Finish: Fifth

Coach: Erich Geyer

Outlook: Former Socker defender Erich Geyer starts his first full season as coach of the Sting. Geyer led the team to a 22-22 record after replacing Willy Roy, who got off to a 1-7 start. The Sting traded goalkeeper Victor Nogueira to Cleveland for Chris Vacarro. They signed former Sting and Comet forward Pato Margetic (25 goals, 37 assists last season), former Socker and Comet defender Gary Collier, former Lazer defender Neil Gibson and a seven-year veteran midfielder, Oscar Albuquerque.

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