Stitz's rocket shot launches Spirit to 13-4 win over Invaders

December 28, 1992|By Doug Brown | Doug Brown,Staff Writer

In all the years of playing with and against Barry Stitz, th Spirit's Jason Dieter never had seen such a shot by his old friend.

"Sixteen years," Dieter said. "I've never seen him hit a ball that hard."

Dieter kicked a hard one himself, unleashing a shot for the game's first goal, but it was Stitz's that captured the imagination. His three-point goal-- the team's second this season -- provided the final impetus for the Spirit's 13-4 victory over the Canton Invaders yesterday before 4,075 at the Baltimore Arena.

The win, coupled with the Cleveland Crunch's 15-10 loss to the Harrisburg Heat, enabled the Spirit to regain the lead in the National Professional Soccer League's American Division with a 9-2 record, to Cleveland's 9-3.

With the Spirit (9-2) leading 6-4 midway through the third quarter, Stitz, a rookie out of Archbishop Curley and Towson State, sent a rocket from beyond the 50-foot yellow line over leaping goalie Jorge Valenzuela's head to make it 9-4. The crowd erupted and Stitz, in delight, kicked the ball into the stands.

"Two goalies couldn't have stopped that shot," Spirit coach Kenny Cooper said.

Rusty Troy had scored the team's first three-pointer -- into an empty net -- in an 18-12 win Saturday night over the St. Louis Ambush.

Earlier in yesterday's game, Stitz and Troy were racing down the field on a two-on-one break when his pass to Troy was intercepted.

"He [the Canton defender] was playing me to pass all the way, so I should have shot," Stitz said. "When I came off the field, coach Cooper told me to shoot in that situation.

"Later, I had another opening, coming down with Eric Dade. I had a good first touch, trapping the ball. The defender was cheating, backing off me. So, I let it go like the coaches had been telling me."

It clearly took the starch out of Canton.

"It was a great strike," Cooper said. "We want to encourage the guys to take those shots to keep the other team honest. We're a good passing team, but if we always build up to a shot with pass after pass, teams will sit back in a zone and wait. We have to use the three-point weapon at the right time."

After Stitz's strike, Canton (6-5) didn't score again.

Cris Vaccaro was brilliant in goal, making 15 saves, some of them spectacular. Vaccaro and the team were coming off the win the night before in St. Louis, prompting Cooper to say yesterday's game was "a gut-check type of win you have to have in this league. It was a very demanding weekend."

Stitz felt the demand in his legs when he started his second game in less than 24 hours, but that changed when he hit the three-pointer.

"Suddenly, I seemed to get my legs back," Stitz said. "Caught up in the intensity, I guess."

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