MILWAUKEE -- With so many new situations facing the Baltimore Spirit, a slow start could have been expected.
Joe Koziol's finish could not have been.
Baltimore, in its first game in the National Professional Soccer League, came back from a nine-point, first-quarter deficit last night to win on Koziol's goal 2:08 into the overtime period to defeat the Milwaukee Wave, 13-11, before 15,195 at the Bradley Center.
"This is so new for all of us and I can't tell you how pleased I am that we figured out a way to win," Spirit coach Kenny Cooper said. "It was gut-check time and everyone knew that the second half was going to be ours."
In overtime, Koziol took advantage of a defensive mistake by Milwaukee's Kevin Grimes. While deep in the Spirit end, Grimes tried to turn and pass the ball up the field, but Koziol was there and responded by ripping the ball into the net past Wave goalie Victor Nogueira.
"The goal was brilliant," Cooper said. "You knew it was going to take a great shot to beat Nogueira and it was a great shot."
Goran Hunjak, who was credited with the assist on the winning goal, had three goals and two assists and Tim Wittman scored twice to lead the Spirit.
Baltimore is technically an expansion team in the NPSL. But the Spirit is coached by former Blast coach Cooper and features former Blast players Cris Vaccaro, Rusty Troy, Doug Neely and Koziol. It is hardly a brand-new team.
But it didn't look that way in the beginning of the game.
The Wave took the early lead on a three-point goal from Dan Donigan. Vaccaro brought the ball past the three-point line, Donigan stole it from him, turned and shot into the empty net, giving Milwaukee a 3-0 lead 55 seconds into the game.
Down 9-0, the Spirit got on the board later in the period when Barry Stitz stole the ball from defender Tim Martin and easily beat Nogueira, making it 9-2.
Baltimore scored a power-play goal before the first quarter ended after Stebbins was called for unsportsmanlike conduct. Hunjak easily beat Nogueira from long range, cutting the lead to 9-3.
After an unconventional floating goal by Nogueira, Wittman scored before halftime off a free kick to make it 11-5.
The second half began much better than the first for the Spirit, which scored at 5:38 when Hunjak one-timed a cross from Jason Dieter past Nogueira, cutting the lead to 11-7.