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The (new) MISL kicks off

by Steve De Rose
October 18, 2001 - Major Indoor Soccer League 2 (MISL 2)

The (new) MISL kicks off

Steve De Rose

The 2001-2002 winter signifies the first season of the (new) Major Indoor Soccer League. The League possesses six franchises which competed in the National Professional Soccer League for the 2000-2001 season and two additional entities which did not meet the minimum standards to compete on the playing level: in the Detroit Rockers and the Toronto Thunderhawks.

The teams which will be contending for the championship this season are:
Philadelphia Kixx
Baltimore Blast
Harrisburg Heat
Cleveland Crunch
Milwaukee Wave
Kansas City Comets (nee Attack)

In this article, I will analyze each team to gauge their strengths and weaknesses and make predictions of which I am sure some people will gleefully remind me come April 2002.

* * *

The Philadelphia Kixx were the vanquished finalist last season. The Kixx have primarily been a defensive-oriented squad, backstopped solidly by the under-publicized Peter Pappas. During the off-season, not much additional offense was acquired as Jim Hesch was the most prominent name. Gary De Palma, from the Pittsburgh Riverhounds of the A-League, and most recently in the league with the Detroit Rockers, was signed just the other day. With Omid Namazi remaining on the bench this season, restarts will also be affected.

The Baltimore Blast made many moves last season. This season, they had to retreat somewhat. Mark Thomas had to be released because of salary cap issues. Some partisan observers believe the Blast are still violating the spirit (oops, old NPSL reference), if not the actual by-law, of the salary cap, what with the opportunity for Blast players to draw an additional check as "bank tellers" at the financial institution also owned by Ed Hale. Others believe that Kevin Healey will never be a championship-winning coach. Essentially, this would seem to be the most consistent side in the League. The players know each other, and many of them can put the ball in the net. Their defense is solid and deep, and Scott Hileman does a superb job in the net.

The Harrisburg Heat were not expected to pick up many players from the dispersal draft of the teams which either went defunct or were directed to skip this season, but they kept drafting players nonetheless. You see, drafting costs no money. To some observers' amazement, quite a few of the drafted players did come to terms with the Heat. Paolo Ceccarelli has displaced Doug Petras as the number one goalkeeper. Matt Knowles, who is expected to sell an additional six season tickets in Harrisburg, needs to return to his 1997-98 form. Nobody expected the Heat to compile the best record in the league last season. They became the classic example of 'the sum being greater than its parts.' However, they were abruptly terminated in the first round. Where they will finish this season is not as significant as the answer to the question: "Can they win the Championship?"

The Cleveland Crunch had the wheels fall off the vehicle last season. Everything went wrong, and Zoran Karic was not re-signed. The span of points between Hector Marinaro and the team's second-highest scorer was seventy-three! Otto Orf II's save percentage was only 71 percent. Changes had to be made, and it seems they have. The "goalkeeper of the future," Jim Larkin, was acquired, and three new defenders made the roster from non-participating teams. Mike Pilger, who promises a team which is fast and physical, is the new head coach. The Crunch are the team with the most intriguing schedule. Two five-game home stands denote the start and midpoint of the season. Their last five games of the season are all away. To be blunt, the Crunch are the wild card team. Where they will finish depends on how much the squad congeals.

The Milwaukee Wave have been the cream of the league since 1997. Not even implementation of the salary cap seems to keep them from making the small little changes they need each season. First of all, GK Victor Nogueira is the human equivalent of the alkaline battery bunny. The team also made a shrewd move in drafting Jim Larkin [c.v.] in the dispersal draft, enabling them to trade for Todd Dusosky's brother, Troy. The Wave continue to sign players who can fly on the field. They seldom are caught out of position and have three good lines, all of which can put the ball in the other team's net. The cliché which most comes to mind for them is: "The battle does not always go to the strong; nor the race to the swift - but that's the way to bet." This pick is the no-brainer. Everybody should select the Wave to win the Championship until the season after they don't.

The Kansas City Comets, formerly the Attack, have stealthily interchanged entire sections of their roster. The new [old] nickname is being utilized to illuminate just what is being done. The most fascinating machination of the off-season was the signing of former players who swore they would never again play for General Manager/Head Coach Zoran Savic. In the instance of "Scorin'" Goran Hunjak, he even became an assistant coach. The salary cap did do some damage here, though, as 10-year Kansas City goalkeeper Warren Westcoat has gone unsigned. The new backbone of players is from the now-defunct Wichita Wings. Reports describe this year's team as "fast, faster, fastest". The Comets have the second-most intriguing schedule. A seven-game road trip nearly beginning the season will make the squad gel rather quickly. At the rear end, twelve of the last nineteen matches are at home.

* * *

So here is how I believe - without having seen any of the teams play - the 2001-2002 (new) Major Indoor Soccer League standings will end up on April 15, 2002:

1. Milwaukee Wave
2. Baltimore Blast
3. Harrisburg Heat
4. Cleveland Crunch
5. Kansas City Comets
6. Philadelphia Kixx

The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts or opinions of OurSports Central.

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The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer(s), and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts or opinions of OurSports Central or its staff.