Spirit booms Thunder in 20-2 home explosion

December 14, 1992|By Doug Brown | Doug Brown,Staff Writer

Coach Kenny Cooper wonders what Tim Wittman will do for an encore. Everyone else wonders what the Spirit will do for an encore.

Scoring almost at will in the second half, the Spirit exploded for 16 points and crushed the Denver Thunder, 20-2, last night before 4,196 at the Baltimore Arena. The win follows last week's 22-4 rout of defending National Professional Soccer League champion Detroit.

The Spirit, which leads the league with a 7-1 record, has outscored five opponents at the Arena 92-39.

"At halftime we knew we had to step it up," Cooper said, referring to the Spirit's meager 4-0 lead. "We responded magnificently. Clinical, I'd call it."

And Wittman? On a shootout, the veteran juggled the ball with his knees twice, then kneed it over goalie Jim Admans' head into the goal.

"Brilliant," Cooper said. "He practices that."

The Spirit came close to recording the league's first shutout this year, but Jeff Rogers finally solved goalie Cris Vaccaro with 9:02 left. Denver thus matched its own league record for fewest points in one game this season.

"The shutout was in the back of my mind, but there was still a long way to go," Vaccaro said. "When they scored, it was almost a relief. It was like, 'OK, now let's finish the game.' "

Goran Hunjak, who leads the Spirit in scoring with 42 points, had three goals and two assists for seven points, giving him 16 in the last two games. Michael King had six points, Steve Boardman five.

It was a rude reception for Denver player/coach Paul Kitson, once of the Blast. Because one goalie was out with a groin injury and another had gone home and couldn't get a flight out, the Thunder (3-6) hurriedly acquired Admans from Canton. He was signed Saturday night and arrived an hour before the game.

"On top of that, we lost our captain and best defender with a bad knee early in the second quarter," Kitson said, referring to Tom Soehn. "We played well in the first half, but Baltimore's first goal in the second half took the wind out of our sails."

The scoreless first quarter was distinguished by several diving saves by Vaccaro. He prevented one point when he stopped Chad Ashton's shootout attempt, leaving him nine of 12 in thwarting shootouts.

NOTES: Only Hunjak has at least one point in all eight games. . . . The Spirit's next game is Saturday here against Cleveland. The first 5,000 fans receive a Spirit towel.

Cooper had planned to give rookie Brian Hartlove his first start last night, but the reserve goalie strained his back in Thursday's practice and played only part of the fourth quarter.

"We're trying to break in the young players," Cooper said. "Cris is off to a great start and, like with a quarterback, you don't like to make changes if you're winning. We're selective when we ease these guys into the lineup so that the performance stays the same."

Hartlove, 27, a Perry Hall High grad who attended Essex Community College and West Virginia University, established himself as one of the area's top amateur goalies. "He's a project, but getting better," Cooper said. "At 27, a goalie is coming into his prime. Brian is brave and a good stopper, with a good arm. He needs to vocalize more, call out instructions."

Denver 0 0 0 2 -- 2

Spirit 0 4 6 10 -- 20

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