Spirit falls from first, 18-13 Crunch takes division lead behind big third quarter

December 20, 1992|By Doug Brown | Doug Brown,Staff Writer

A spate of five unanswered goals was too much for the Spirit to overcome in its National Professional Soccer League showdown with the Cleveland Crunch.

Down 6-4, Cleveland rallied for 10 points and went on to defeat the Spirit, 18-13, last night before 4,750 at the Baltimore Arena.

The Spirit (7-2) surrendered first place in the league's American Division to the Crunch (8-2). It was the Spirit's first loss at home in six games.

As the fans waved their Three-Point Tally Towels, the Spirit stormed back, but with too little too late. The Spirit scored three straight goals after Cleveland's string of five, but came no closer than 14-11 after successive goals by Rusty Troy.

Cleveland's rally began with George Fernandez's second goal late in the second quarter. In the third period, the Crunch poured it on, getting goals from league scoring leader Hector Marinaro, Shawn Medved, Mark Thomas and Gary Heale to take a 14-6 lead.

Marinaro and Thomas scored within 27 seconds of each other. tTC Medved's goal was a dandy; he knocked the ball in with his heel from the side with his back to the goal.

The Crunch had spoken.

"They simply exploded," Spirit coach Kenny Cooper said. "That happens. We've done it. When you've got that kind of talent on the floor, it's not unusual for one team to explode.

"We made a couple of mistakes and got punished for them. They dropped back on us, packed it in, and we turned the ball over too quickly."

For Tim Wittman, the evening ended early when he was ejected in the third quarter for unsportsmanlike conduct.

"Timmy's a competitor, and you can't take that out of him," Cooper said. "He got frustrated. You can't criticize him for that."

Predictably, Marinaro led Cleveland with two goals and three assists, raising his league-leading points total to 83. Troy (2 and 1) and Goran Hunjak (2 and 2) led Baltimore.

Hunjak's game-opening goal was a thing of beauty. He juked his defender, faking right, then left, then shooting right-footed past Cleveland goalie Otto Orf for a 2-0 Baltimore lead.

The first indication the game wasn't going to be a blowout by either of these high-scoring teams was provided 22 seconds later when George Fernandez tied the score. It was then 4-2 Baltimore when Wittman got an unintended assist from Heale when his shot bounced off the Cleveland player into the goal.

The game was held up for five minutes in the first quarter after Spirit goalie Cris Vaccaro was inadvertently kicked in the face by Medved while he was prostrate after lunging for a shot. Reserve Brian Hartlove began warming up, but Vaccaro remained in the game.

Cleveland tied it again at 4 on a stroke of good fortune in the second quarter. Nassim Olabi kicked the ball off the boards and it glanced off Baltimore defender Joe Koziol into the net.

Hunjak, the league's third leading scorer with 42 points entering the game, got his second goal as the Spirit again took the lead, 6-4. Fernandez came back less than two minutes later with his second to make it 6-6.

NOTES: Steve Boardman played for the Spirit despite a strained groin muscle. . . .The Spirit players met fans at the gate for about 30 minutes before the game and were there afterward dressed in Santa Claus hats and distributing candy canes. . . . If Cleveland's Marinaro continues his present pace he'll finish the 40-game schedule with 337 points -- almost double the league record of 180 set by Andy Chapman of Detroit in 1990-91. . . . The Crunch entered the game with a slim 10.75 points-against average. Said Marinaro: "The main reason we're scoring so much is that we're playing good defense."

Cleveland 2 4 8 4 -- 18

Spirit 4 2 0 7 -- 13

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