Spirit's long-shot chance comes up short to Crunch

December 21, 1992|By Doug Brown | Doug Brown,Staff Writer

With 4:23 remaining, Spirit coach Kenny Cooper pulled goalie Cris Vaccaro and inserted Rusty Troy as a sixth attacker.

The signal was unmistakable: The Spirit was in trouble.

Baltimore had responded to a volley of five straight Cleveland Crunch goals by scoring three in a row. But still the Spirit trailed, 16-11.

It was time for a desperation measure, for long-range three-point shots from beyond the yellow line by the sixth attacker, Troy, who earlier had two goals and an assist.

"When the other team knows you're looking for a three-point shot, it makes it that much tougher to get it," Troy said.

Troy found no openings for such heroics Saturday night when the Spirit lost to Cleveland, 18-13, its first home defeat in six games.

The Crunch (8-2) thereby supplanted the Spirit (7-2) in first place in the National Professional Soccer League's American Division. The two are crowded at the top by the Buffalo Blizzard, which is 8-3 after beating the Canton Invaders.

Baltimore has no stronger rivalry in indoor soccer than with Cleveland, covering more than a decade when its team was known as the Blast and Cleveland's as the Force. In the first meeting of the season, last month, the Spirit beat the Crunch, 17-14, and the teams will clash again here Jan. 10.

The Spirit's next game is Saturday on the road against the St. Louis Ambush followed by a home game against the Canton Invaders on Sunday, when the first 5,000 fans will receive travel mugs.

"We've got to bounce back and respond," Cooper said. "We're 7-2, still in good position."

The devastating stretch for the Spirit on Saturday night started late in the second quarter and ended with three minutes left in the third period. The Crunch scored five unanswered goals, good for 10 points, and seized a 14-6 lead.

"Explosions like that are typical of the rivalry," Cooper said.

"The other team loses its momentum during a spurt like that," nTC Troy said. "We had some mental lapses on defense. We've had them before, in other games, but we got away with them. This team punishes you for a mistake."

Cleveland's Hector Marinaro performed as advertised, with two goals and three assists for a game-high seven points, slightly under his average. He is the league's runaway points leader with 83 in 10 games.

The Spirit's Tim Wittman spent the latter part of the game in the locker room after being ejected following two misconduct penalties in the third quarter. Only minutes after that, Cooper noted, the Spirit scored three straight goals to pull within 14-11.

"In a way, it ignited us, losing Timmy," Cooper said. "But did we miss him? Sure."

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