The Salt Lake Sting got clobbered on the soccer field Friday night, 4-1 at the hands of the Vancouver 86ers, but losing the game may be the least of their worries.
Unless they get a monetary infusion this week, the Sting may never play at Derks Field again."We have covered all of our bills through this game," said Mike Silva, director of the Sting Foundation's executive committee. "We are out of cash."
The Sting only stayed alive this season when a nonprofit foundation was formed to operate the team on an interim basis, until a buyer could be found. The foundation's plan was to solicit donations from sponsors to keep the team afloat. Silva said sufficient commitments were made by sponsors, but those sponsors have been reluctant to fulfill their commitments because of poor attendance.
The committee assumed that attendance at Sting games at least would be similar to last season, when crowds of 5,000-6,000 were common. But at last week's home opener fewer than 1,000 soccer fans turned out on a rainy evening, and under cloudy skies Friday the crowd was estimated at 1,800, despite an unprecedented (for the Sting) TV-advertising blitz over the past week. Those aren't the kinds of crowds that attract buyers.
Silva said the Sting's hopes now rest on a loan from Merrill Osmond and Jeff Woodbury, who have been in charge of the team's fund-raising, to keep the team alive.
"That (the loan) would save the Sting through this season, and will likely keep the Sting in Salt Lake through the next five years," Silva said. The foundation is confident that attendance - and income - will improve enough at the remaining nine home games to pay off the loan and entice a buyer.
If the loan should fall through, however, the scheduled game between the Sting and Miami next Saturday may not happen. "We (the committee) will have to sit and talk about that," Silva said.
Sting players, meanwhile, struggled Friday with a deficit of their own - on the scoreboard. Still winless after three games, the Salt Lake team looked sharper on offense but struggled on defense.
Forward George Pastor, last year's leading scorer, is scoreless after three games and bewildered by the lack of offense. "We had some good chances," he said. "We're professionals and we're supposed to be putting some of those away."
The 86ers scored first, 19 minutes into the game, when Jamie Lowery poked an eight-footer in after a scramble in front of the net. The Sting scored one minute later, though, as Dzung Tran lofted a pass to Derek Sanderson for a short header and 1-1 tie.
Shortly before the intermission, Vancouver made it 2-1 when Doug McKinty booted a lazy pass in front of the Sting goal, where Norman Odinga chipped it in.
An errant kick by the Sting's Thor Lee into his own goal made it 3-1, and the 86ers added the final goal with 13 minutes left in the game when Sam Saundh passed to Guido Titotto for a 10-yard strike.
In a terse postgame statement, Sting coach Valery Volostnykh vowed to find a combination that will work.
"Next game we win, I promise you," he said. "We're going to make some changes."