When Spirit coach Kenny Cooper printed his theme for the night on the locker room blackboard, he thought it was pretty clear.
He wrote: "To finish strong, you have to start fast."
The Spirit did one, but not the other.
After dawdling to a 3-3 halftime tie, the Spirit came from six points behind to edge the Dayton Dynamo, 18-13, thanks to Michael King's four goals and Joe Koziol's tie-breaking, three-point goal last night before 4,228 at the Baltimore Arena.
Finish strong, the Spirit did.
"Dayton's defensive shell was tough to break down," Cooper said. "Instead of trying the middle, we went from the outside. Then we started getting the breaks and some goals. The fans were the difference. They lifted us."
Late in the third quarter, the Spirit was behind, 11-5. Baltimore erupted in the fourth, scoring 11 points while holding Dayton to two. King scored three of his four goals in the period, and Hunjak added two.
The score was tied at 13-13 with 3:04 left when Koziol, from three-point land beyond the 50-foot yellow line, kicked the ball off one post, watched it bounce off the other post and into the goal. It was Baltimore's third three-point goal of the season.
"We caught Dayton in a change of defenders," Koziol said. "We were coming down, three on two, when the defenders split and I decided to take a chance and hit it."
Goran Hunjak added the final two-point goal as the first-place Spirit raised its record to 10-2 in the National Professional Soccer League's American Division. Baltimore is 7-1 at the Arena; Dayton is 1-7 on the road.
When Tony Bono gave Dayton a 2-0 lead midway through the first quarter, it was only the fourth time Baltimore had trailed in eight home games.
Two of the previous three times also were early, against the Chicago Power and Buffalo Blizzard. The other occasion was from mid-third quarter on in the loss to the Cleveland Crunch.
The Spirit tied it at 2 when Rusty Troy converted a pass across the goal mouth from Koziol. Troy "one-touched" the ball, meaning he didn't dribble it after receiving Koziol's pass. Baltimore out-shot Dayton in the first quarter, 11-3.
In the second quarter, King made it 3-2 without touching the ball. On a power play, Koziol's shot glanced off Dayton's Chris Pfau into the goal. King was credited with the point because he was closest to the ball.
Dayton had an opportunity to tie the score, but goalkeeper Cris Vaccaro stopped Bono's shootout attempt, making him 12 for 18 in stopping penalty shootouts.
Brad Smith's one-point power play goal tied it at 3 just before halftime.
NOTES:Spirit owner Bill Stealey is proposing to fellow NPSL owners that a 40-foot arc, instead of the 50-foot yellow line, be the demarcation for a three-point goal. "We need more scoring, more three-point shots," Stealey said. "We've only had two all season. The guy who leads the league, [Cleveland's] Hector Marinaro, only has five." No one else among the league's top 20 scorers has more than two three-point goals.
Dayton 2 1 8 2 -- 13
Baltimore 2 1 4 11 -- 18