A former friend will be the Salt Lake Sting's foe as they open the regular season against the San Francisco Bay Blackhawks today.
Laurie Calloway, last year's Sting coach, is now the field boss of the Blackhawks. Like the Sting, the Blackhawks are expected to be improved over last season - and last season they reached the American Professional Soccer League championship game.The Blackhawks' team features four U.S. National Team members, as well as three players with World Cup experience and last year's APSL scoring champ, Chance Fry. With Seattle last season, Fry had 17 goals and five assists.
"I thought San Francisco Bay was a good all-around team last year, but I wanted to get more explosiveness," Calloway said, explaining the acquisition of Fry.
If nothing else, this game should offer a contrast in coaching philosophies. Calloway prefers a straight-ahead, feed-the-ball-to-the-big-guns approach, while new Sting coach Valery Volostnykh is more a proponent of team play. So far, Volostnykh's approach has appeared successful, as the Sting were impressive in beating old nemesis Colorado, 3-1, in an exhibition game last weekend.
The game also will be the debut of the APSL's "go-for-goals" point system, designed to encourage more goals and attacking style of soccer. The system awards a team six points in the standings for a win in regulation or overtime, while in matches settled by the penalty-kick tiebreaker the winner receives four points and the loser two. In addition, each team - regardless of whether it wins or loses - gets one point for each goal scored in regulation, up to a maximum of three.
Today's game is the official APSL opener, beginning at 2 p.m. at Newark Memorial Stadium, Newark, Calif.