Comets To Face Atoms In NASL Opener Friday

Charlie Hook
Date Published: 
Evening Sun

The Baltimore Comets open their 22-game North American Soccer League schedule with an 8:05 kickoff at Memorial Stadium against the Philadelphia Atoms Friday.

Baltimore was the surprise of the league a year ago in their initial season in the N.A.S.L. Picked by most experts to finish last, the Comets ended the campaign with the second best record in the loop. Although Baltimore was eliminated from the postseason playoffs by the Boston Minutemen, their season was a success. The only disappointment was the attendance, which suffered because of early season weather conditions and fans being unfamiliar with the sport.

Last year the Comets produced the league's Most Valuable Player in Peter Silvester. Silvester, Cometlands hero, will not be in uniform for tomorrow night's contest due to previous commitments with Southend United Football Club in England. The league's leading goal scorer will be ready for action against the Cosmos in New York next Saturday.

Baltimore's Keith Aqui finished second in the voting for the N.A.S.L.'s Rookie of the Year award. Aqui, a native of Trinidad, played his college soccer under the tutelage of Lincoln Phillips at Howard University. Keith is exciting to watch with his great speed and ball control

If the Comets-Atoms contests of 1974 are any indication of what is on tapper Friday, soccer fans will be in for a real treat. The Baltimoreans dropped a highly contested match on 33rd street 3-2, then defeated the Atoms 2-1 in the City of Brotherly Love.

One member of the Atoms will be familiar to local sport fans. Chris Bahr, the talented Penn State graduate will be wearing a Philadelphia uniform. Bahr's accurate foot won Joe Paterno a lot of football games the past three seasons while also capturing All-American honors at
midfield for the Nittany Lion soccer team.

The Baltimore franchise is a class organization from the owner Jim McLaughlin, through the front office right down to the 18th player on the roster. Head coach Doug Millward and general manager Al Collins are in a class of their own when it comes to recognizing and developing soccer talent.

The two have strengthened Baltimore for the upcoming campaign with the acquisition of three new bonafide scoring threats. Alan Gilliver, Chris Simpkin and Guy St. Vil, will add to the high scoring attack of last season. The nucleus of last years offensive thrust, Silvester, Aqui, Alvin Henderson and Hank Kazmierski are back for another season of frustrating opposing netminders.

Although the Comets possess a potent offensive attack, Millward is defense oriented. Geoff Butler, an all-league defender last year, will solidify the Baltimore defensive crew. The talented Englishman will captain the Comets again this season.

Joining Butler will be big John Napier from Ireland, Len Renery, and Stan Smith and Winston Earle, both starters last season, Renery was acquired from the New York Cosmos in an off season transaction.

The Comets midfield will be handled mainly by Englishman Terry Anderson, Paul Scurti, Dennis Wit, and Ernie Cox. Anderson was an unsung hero for Baltimore last year. Scurti, Wit and Cox are local high school and college standouts. Scurti was an All-American selection at Catonsville, while Wit starred at Loyola and for the U.S. Olympic Team. Cox, an All-America midfielder from Loyola, was Baltimore's first round draft choice this year.

Last year's number one pick Alan Mayer will start in the nets for the Comets. Mayer excelled as a rookie backing up Lincoln Phillips. Alan gained valuable experience playing for Southend United in England following Baltimore's regular season. Mayer performed so well the English club wanted to purchase or trade for the young goalie.

Phillips, now 34 years old, assists Millward with the coaching responsibilities and will be on hand at all times if needed. The veteran netminder is still in excellent shape and could be in the starting line-up if Millward would want more experience in the nets.

Look for Baltimore to finish first in the N.A.S.L.'s Eastern Division followed by the Miami Toros, Philadelphia Atoms, Tampa Bay Rowdies and in the last place the Washington Diplomats.