Atoms face Comets in NASL showdown

Date Published: 
Bucks County Courier Times

PHILADELPHIA — The champion Philadelphia Atoms play the Baltimore Comets at 8 p.m. tonight under the lights at Veterans Stadium in a crucial encounter.

The game could decide the champion of the North American Soccer League's Eastern division.

Baltimore has taken over the top spot the Atoms occupied earlier in the season. The Atoms, however, have won three of their last four league games and are pressing Baltimore for the lead. They are just 11 points behind the Comets.

The game will also feature a scoring duel Between Baltimore's league-leading winger, Pete Silvester, and the Atoms scoring wonder Andy "the Flea" Provan. Silvester currently has 13 goals, 3 assists, 29 points. Provan has 9 goals, 3 assists, 21 points.

Atoms coach Al Miller said, "This is the most important game of the season for us. The Baltimore game, and the two we have with Miami, will undoubtedly decide who is going to win our division. We have to be at our best, and play sharp and aggressive soccer, to win.

Tight Race

"We are all so closely bunched that every game is critical. If we win tonight, it could give us the momentum to go all the way."

The Comets and Atoms have identical 6-7-1 records, but Baltimore is the Eastern division leader because they have scored more goals. They have 35 to the Atoms 23. The Comets also have 83 points to Philadelphia's 72.

In the only other game between the Atoms and Baltimore earlier this year, Philadelphia won 3-2 on a penalty kick by Big Jim Fryatt with 10 minutes left in the game. The Atoms had taken an early lead on two goals by Provan, one a spectacular pivot shot that Comets goalie Lincoln Phillips said "was one of the best I had even seen."

With the loss of Kit Fagan for the rest of the season after an operation on his injured right arm, Miller will have to rebuild his midfield. The Atoms had won four out of five games, including an exhibition with Honduras, with Fagan in the lineup.

"I will probably start Lew Meehl in Fagan's spot at center midfield, George O'Neill at left midfield, and either Barry Barto or Skip Roderick at right midfield," Miller explained.

"Meehl has been playing well in practice, and he had a good game against the Italian Army team. I am depending on them to control much of the play against Baltimore."