ALSO ON SLAM!
Friday, May 5, 2000
Montreal Impact return to A-League
After a year's absence from the outdoor game and just weeks from the indoor NPSL season, it may take the Montreal Impact a while to find their feet when they officially return to the A-League today.
The Impact come into tonight's road game against the Pittsburgh Riverhounds after just 10 days in camp. And most of that time has been spent on fitness as the team looks to switch from the sprint of the indoor game to the endurance of the outdoor game.
"We're going to go out and hopefully get a result, but it's basically part of training camp," said midfielder Nick DeSantis, who will miss the game because of tendinitis.
In other Canadian A-League action today, the Vancouver 86ers open their season against the visiting Seattle Sounders while the Toronto Lynx (0-0-1) visit the Rochester Raging Rhinos.
Montreal goalie Paolo Ceccarelli (abdominal injury) and defender John Limniatis (suspension) will also miss the Pittsburgh game, which marks the debut of Yugoslav coach Zoran Jankovic.
Sixteen members of the team played indoors for the Impact, who sat out the outdoor season last year because of a dispute between the league and owner Joey Saputo, but DeSantis cautions that many are young and lacking experience.
The team will look to Darko Kolic up front. The Yugoslav forward was the league's fourth-leading scorer last season (17 goals, nine assists, 43 points) with the Long Island Rough Riders.
Another attacking option is midfielder Dejan Gluscevic, who has played in Greece, Indonesia, Singapore and Yugoslavia.
Montreal is 5-1 in A-League season openers, with the lone loss a 3-2 shootout in 1993 in Los Angeles. But the lack of preparation could cost the Impact this time.
"Because of the new faces, because of guys still being out, because of a new coach who wants to come in and do something different, it is going to be a bit of a mystery," DeSantis said of the Impact outlook.
"But everyone's looking forward to it and hopefully it's a positive one."
The Impact can look forward to a two-week layoff until their next match, May 21 in Toronto. Montreal's home opener is May 28 against the Connecticut Wolves.
In Vancouver, the 86ers start the season without strikers Niall Thompson (now playing for Airdrie in Scotland) and Eddy Sebrango (Rochester), who combined for 38 of the team's league-record 77 goals.
And from the sigh in his voice, it's obvious that GM Bob Lenarduzzi is tired of talking about life without the league's No. 1 and No. 2 scorers.
Lenarduzzi points to his team's other scoring options: veteran Domenic Mobilio, Carmen D'Onofrio, Chris Clarke, Alfredo Valente, Jason Jordan, Johnny Sulentic and Dave Morris.
"There's no question we're going to miss those two but I think there's enough firepower there that somebody can pick up the slack," Lenarduzzi said.
Dale Mitchell takes over as coach for Carl Valentine, fired after the 19-9 86ers were eliminated by U.S. Pro 40, a developmental side stocked with youngsters, in the first round of the playoffs.
"We were awful," Lenarduzzi said.
The early exit probably cost the franchise a shot at breaking even, with each home playoff game worth $40,000 to $50,000.
The 86ers have also lost American defender Tom Hardy but have a fine replacement in Steve McCauley, who was impressive with the Canadian Olympic team at the recent qualifying tournament in Hershey, Pa.
Look out for defender/midfielder Jeff Skinner, who made his mark against the U.S. in Hershey.
Veteran Kevin Holness, formerly of the Toronto Lynx, adds experience to the midfield.
The 86ers were second only to Rochester in attendance last season, averaging 4,558. The team still lost $100,000 but could break even this year if the average creeps up to 5,000.
In Rochester, the Lynx may have their hands full against the Raging Rhinos. Toronto will stick with Theo Zagar in goal over incumbent Jim Larkin after Zagar's fine showing in last weekend's 1-1 tie in Pittsburgh.
The Rhinos are expecting a sellout at the 12,052-capacity Frontier Field.
Canadian notes: This weekend should give Canada a better handle on who it will face in June in a World Cup playoff. Cuba hosts Barbados on Sunday in the opening leg of a home-and-away series. The second leg is set for two weeks later. The winner advances to the semifinal round of CONCACAF qualifying while the loser takes on Canada. Cuba has yet to give up a goal in qualifying play ... It looks like Oxford United defender Mark Watson will miss Canada's friendlies later this month against Trinidad and Tobago and Honduras. The English Second Division's official Web site reported Friday that Watson is hobbled by a calf injury and will be out six weeks ... A poll of W-League coaches predicts that the Chicago Cobras will beat the Raleigh Wings in this season's final. The Laval Dynamites were picked to finish first in the Northern Conference, with the Ottawa Fury third and Toronto Inferno fourth.
Famous weekend: The new national Soccer Hall of Fame and Museum in Vaughan, Ont., will induct its first class today.
Players to be inducted include former national team captain Bruce Wilson, Robert Iarusci and Sam Lenarduzzi (brother of Bob Lenarduzzi), Dick Arends, Ken Pears and Joe Kennaway, Jack Cowan, Errol Crossan, Bob (Whitey) McDonald and Geordie Campbell.
The list also includes Dave Turner, the only soccer player in Canada's Sports Hall of Fame. Turner was voted Canada's soccer player of the half century in voting conducted by The Canadian Press.
Inductees in the builders category are Bill Simpson, David Fryatt, Bill Stirling, Sam Davidson, George Anderson, Tom Fried, Lou Moro, Don Petrie, Horace Lyons, Werner Winsemann and David Forsyth.