A Salt Lake Sting soccer team billed as much-improved over last season opens league play in less than a week.

Tonight at 7:30 p.m., the Sting begin their final week of pre-season practice by taking on the Colorado Foxes at Skyline High School. Admission is adults two for $5, children two for $3.Fred Gray, Sting director of soccer operations, said the team's performance against last week in Denver is a measure of how far it has advanced. Last year, the Foxes beat the Sting all six times they met. A week ago, the Sting tied the Foxes, 1-1.

"And the score doesn't show how we controlled the game," Gray said. "We played 80 percent of the game in their half of the field."

Several Sting players from last season have returned, including George Pastor, No. 2 scorer in the league, but there are also many new faces. Gray said it has been a case of players recruiting the Sting more than of the Sting recruiting players. The reason? Salt Lake's highly regarded Russian coach, Valery Volostnykh.

"We have had more players come looking for us, because they want to play for Valery," Gray said. `It's unbelievable."

Gray said there will be a change in style from last year's team led by coach Laurie Calloway. "Calloway had an English background and liked straight-ahead, full-out soccer," he said. "Valery goes more on a team concept, rather than feeding the ball to one or two stars."

A couple of local players made the Sting roster, Provo resident Steve Singelmann and goalkeeper Pat Vietti, who played at Brighton High School. For the moment, though, Vietti is on injured reserve. "You know the old expression, that as a rookie, you don't want to shoot yourself in the foot?" said Gray. "Well, he did it." Apparently, Vietti and some teammates went fishing during the road trip to Colorado last week and took along a gun. And, somehow, Vietti shot himself in the foot with it. He'll be out four to six weeks. In the meantime, the Sting have nicknamed him Barney Fife.

On the business side, Gray said the Sting's unique financial arrangement is working well. The team announced some time ago that it had reorganized as a nonprofit foundation, and that it would seek donations and volunteers to help it stay afloat. Gray said the response so far has been superb, but emphasized that more help is always welcome.

"We're a lot stronger organization than we were last year," he said. "We're not an NBA franchise, but we're not rookie-league baseball, either. We're somewhere in between."