Splash Backers Hoping to Make a Big Wave at The Pond : Indoor soccer: Team opens season, its first in Anaheim, tonight against Las Vegas Dustdevils.

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It’s not outdoor soccer.

For those who were born with that inherently U.S.-only feeling that all soccer is low-scoring, boring and induces snoring, there is an answer.

It’s the Continental Indoor Soccer League, the CISL. Phonetically, that’s “sizzle,” and when the Splash introduces indoor soccer to Orange County tonight at The Pond of Anaheim against the Las Vegas Dustdevils, it’s hoping to lay the groundwork for a following somewhere between the well-attended Bullfrogs and the mighty well-attended Mighty Ducks.

But first, a CISL primer with a splash of information about Anaheim’s newest franchise.

The CISL used to be the Major Soccer League, which used to be the Major Indoor Soccer League. When the MSL folded in July, 1992, with only seven teams, some joined the National Professional Soccer League, the NPSL--while the most prominent MSL teams, the Dallas Sidekicks and San Diego Sockers, became charter members of the CISL.


There were seven teams in the inaugural season--including Portland, Monterrey (Mexico), Sacramento, Arizona and Los Angeles--and five averaged more than 5,000 spectators per game.

A 14-team league with each team playing 28 games has everyone involved excited about 1994. Said one team representative: “It feels like we’re back--we’re not playing the Wichita Wings every other night.”


What’s the Splash? It was formerly the Los Angeles United, which was owned by Jerry Buss, who also owns the Lakers. The United was purchased by Ogden Facility Management, the company that manages and operates The Pond, and the company changed the name to the Splash.

There 14 teams in the league. The Splash, Arizona Sandsharks, Las Vegas Dustdevils, Portland Pride, Sacramento Knights, San Diego Sockers and San Jose Grizzlies are in the Western Division. The Carolina Vipers, Dallas Sidekicks, Detroit Neon, Houston Hotshots, Monterrey La Raza, Pittsburgh Stingers and Washington Warthogs are in the Eastern Division.

Most soccer people think the Splash is going to be the CISL’s most improved team. The last-place United lost its final 12 matches and finished 6-22.

The acquisition of forward Dale Ervine, who once scored 62 goals in a season in the MSL, and defender Ralph Black, who played for third-place Portland, makes the Splash formidable. It also returns midfielder Rod Castro, the United’s leading scorer (22 goals, 12 assists, despite playing only 17 games). Rookie forward Armando Valdivia scored 17 goals in 20 games for Cal State Northridge and was protected by the Splash as a local amateur.


This team will win more than it loses.

“I think winning cures all ills,” co-governor Tim Orchard said. “Our goal is to draw fans in to experience one of the finest buildings in the entire country and to win.”


Which teams will make the playoffs? The top two teams from each division advance to the playoffs, and the Splash is one of four Western Division teams that is not an expansion team. The others are San Diego--the favorite--Portland, which lost its leading scorer, Dick McCormick and defenders Ralph Black, Neil Megson and Billy Crook, and Sacramento.

At a tournament in Las Vegas over Memorial Day weekend, the Splash finished 3-1-1, including a 6-3 victory over San Diego, which both teams considered the championship game. Twenty minutes later, the Splash used primarily its younger players and lost to well-rested Las Vegas in the championship, 14-10. The Splash had beaten the Dustdevils earlier in the tournament, 5-3, with its first team.

Who are the good players? As a general rule, anyone with only one name is pretty good. That would include Dallas’ Tatu, the CISL MVP who led the league with 117 points; Detroit’s Drago, an explosive and creative scorer; Monterrey’s Zizinho, the league’s third-leading scorer (65 points); Pittsburgh’s Kia, an 11-year indoor veteran and the Stingers’ top scoring threat; and San Jose’s Preki, a seven-time MSL all-star.

Regular guys with two names to drop include Dallas’ David Doyle, the second-leading scorer (93 points), and Joe Papaleo, the goalkeeper of the year; Houston’s Nebo Bandovic, who scored 87 goals in 87 games in the MSL; Monterrey’s Marco Lopez, the rookie of the year with 65 points; Las Vegas’ Branko Segota, ranked among the top 10 scorers in 10 of his 11 MSL seasons; Sacramento’s Sean Bowers, the defender of the year, and Mark Thomas, who scored 42 goals, including a record seven in one game; and San Diego’s David Banks, an All-CISL defender, and Waad Hirmez, a staple of the Sockers’ domination of indoor soccer in the 1980s.


The team’s co-governors, which is kind of like co-presidents, are Tim Orchard, also the director of player personnel, and Brad Mayne. Tim Ryan is the general manager. George Fernandez is the coach.


Fernandez, 32, has won four indoor championships as a player, and is coming off an NPSL championship with the Cleveland Crunch. He won three titles with San Diego in the MISL, and was the league’s all-star game MVP in 1990. He played in the CISL last year with Sacramento.

What about the TV guy? Andrew Shue, the affable Billy from Fox’s “Melrose Place,” was one of two local amateurs the Splash protected. Shue, the cover boy of last week’s TV Guide, signed a contract Wednesday to play two games for the Splash. He played one game last year for the United.

It’s expected he will play July 19 and 21, and he could play more if his schedule allows, though that would be unlikely. Shue is less of a stretch as a soccer player than Michael Jordan as a baseball player--Shue competed at Dartmouth Collegeand for a year in Africa.


How permanent is this league? The ownership groups are solid, so the CISL should be around awhile. Eight of the 14 teams that will play this summer have owners with NBA or NHL ties and are using the CISL as a way to keep their home arenas filled.

In addition to Ogden, a Fortune 500 company, team ownership groups include Houston and the Interfin Corporation, Blockbuster and Camino Real Hotels; Portland and the Tournament of the Americas; and powerful Mexican companies like Grupo FEMSA/Televisa (Monterrey) and Delimex International (San Diego).

Las Vegas’ ownership group is affiliated with the Arena Football’s Las Vegas Sting. A 15th team, Seattle, will begin play in 1995 and is affiliated with the NBA Supersonics.


Mexico City is also hot to join the league.


Is this going to be any fun? The competition for the entertainment dollar is steep, but here’s one perspective on the Splash: An average 14.6 goals were scored per game last year. The United averaged 5.8 goals. The Rams scored 25 touchdowns. Quick conservative math: Even a bad Splash team (and it’s not) should score as many times in four games as the Rams did in 16. That’s something to cheer about.

All but three games will be broadcast on radio station KORG 1190-AM. Fifteen of its 25 broadcasts will be live, including the three matches on this home stand.

The league has a modest television contract with Prime Network; it will show seven Sunday night regular season games and a minimum of five playoff games on Prime Ticket. The Splash home game against Arizona on Sept. 3 will be telecast; it’s the Splash’s only regular season appearance.