December 8, 2000

The Spirit looking good in exhibition; local players attempt to make team

By John Philip Wyllie

If last week's indoor soccer exhibition at the Sports Arena is any indication, then the San Diego Spirit of the fledgling Women's United Soccer Association or WUSA should have a pretty strong team. The new league, which features most of the players that captivated the world two summer's ago with their World Cup play, is set to kick off their inaugural season in April. To promote the league, the players have been crisscrossing the United States on a tour which landed at the Sports Arena on November 29.

Spirit coach, Carlos Juarez, has the difficult job of putting together a team from a talented group of local players.

San Diego's own Shannon MacMillan, who played her high school soccer at San Pasqual High and also starred for two local clubs, Pegasus and the La Jolla Nomads, was the game MVP scoring an incredible six goals to power Team USA 14-12 over the World All-Stars. MacMillan is expected to provide much of the offense for the San Diego Spirit when they begin playing outdoor soccer this spring at USD's Torero Stadium.

U.S. National Team co-captain, Julie Foudy and stellar U.S. defender Joy Fawcett will be joining MacMillan in what is probably the strongest of the eight trios of U.S. National Team members allocated to each of the league's teams. A pair of Swedish internationals, Kristin Bengttson and Ulrika Karlsson are the only other players currently on the Spirit roster. But once the league tryouts are completed on Dec. 9, the eight teams will conduct a player draft on Dec. 10 and 11 to fill out their rosters.

Among those vying for a contract are a quartet of players from Mexico's '99 World Cup team, Gina Oceguera, Lisa Nanez, Monica Gerardo and Laurie Hill and two local stars, former Bonita Vista high standout, Jen Lalor and Mt. Carmel alumnus, Rita Hermiz. The diminutive Hill, who could be the league's shortest player standing barely five feet tall, proved at the Nov. 29 indoor game that good things often come in small packages. She opened the scoring for the World All-Stars with her first period goal.

Following that game, a trio of players spoke with the media. Joy Fawcett, who earlier revealed that her pregnancy will delay her entrance on to the the field until mid-July, expressed confidence that the new league will be a success . "There is so much interest and the girls are so excited about it. When I run into people, the first thing they want to know is when is the league starting and where will you be playing?"

Canada's goal scoring phenomenon, Charmaine Hooper initially wasn't too thrilled about joining a league that pays American National Team players at one rate and foreign internationals at a much lower one. She is nonetheless optimistic about playing for her new team in Atlanta. The wage disparity "will even give me more motivation to do well and kick butt," she said.

MacMillan, who one of the fastest U.S. players and the owner of perhaps the strongest shot, believes the tour is accomplishing its purpose. "By the end of the tour we will have hit all of our WUSA cities. We want to get some of the foreign players recognized, have some fun and display some of our competitiveness. It's a way to give something back to the fans in maybe what is a more interesting environment, but we don't want to lose." With the talented trio of MacMillan, Foudy and Fawcett forming its backbone, the Spirit may well bring this city the winning team that it has so long been waiting for.

Return to the Frontpage