Spirit deflates Crunch, 17-9 Marinaro shut out for the first time

January 11, 1993|By Kevin Eck | Kevin Eck,Contributing Writer

The timing couldn't have seemed worse for the Baltimore Spirit.

The explosive Cleveland Crunch was coming to town for a first-place showdown less than 24 hours after the Spirit had lost a tough game as well as one of its leading scorers.

But the Spirit responded with an inspired performance.

Cleveland's Hector Marinaro, the National Professional Soccer League's leading scorer, was shut out for the first time this season, as the Spirit defeated the Crunch, 17-9, before 4,099 at the Baltimore Arena yesterday.

With the win, Baltimore (12-3) expanded its lead over Cleveland (11-5) to 1 1/2 games in the American Division and avenged an 18-13 loss to the Crunch on Dec. 19 that had knocked the Spirit out of first place.

On Saturday, the Spirit blew a four-point halftime lead en route to a 12-11 loss to the Buffalo Blizzard.

In that game, Spirit forward Michael King -- the team's third-leading scorer -- suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.

King will have a magnetic resonance imaging today, and if the diagnosis is confirmed, he will undergo surgery Friday or next Monday and miss the rest of the season.

"Everyone was down [yesterday], because losing Michael King was a major blow for us," Spirit coach Kenny Cooper said. "He represents more than a player. He has wonderful intensity and great desire.

"I thought the team responded magnificently. The fact that we came back after a tough loss shows that the team has great character."

Goran Hunjak, Eric Dade and Barry Stitz each scored two goals for the Spirit. Hunjak also had two assists for a total of five points.

Doug Neely, Steve Boardman and Tim Wittman led a stellar defensive effort by the Spirit, holding the league's leading offense (18.3 points per game) to a season-low nine points, all of which were scored in the second half. And Spirit goalie Cris Vaccaro (19) saves) seemed nearly impenetrable.

"The idea was to play like a basketball-type defense and get them to play on the perimeter," Cooper said. "We wanted to slow it down and not get caught in an end-to-end game with them."

The Spirit controlled the tempo in the first half and outshot the Crunch, 19-13. A goal by Joe Koziol and Boardman's first three-pointer of the season gave Baltimore a 5-0 halftime lead.

Cleveland had not been held scoreless in a half this season, and it had scored in all but two quarters before yesterday.

"I think we missed some shots we probably should have put away, and the ones that looked like they could have gone in, Vaccaro came up with," Cleveland coach Gary Hindley said. "[Vaccaro] had some unbelievable saves."

Baltimore wasted little time adding to its lead. Stitz scored from a pass by Boardman 41 seconds into the third quarter to make it 7-0.

Zoran Karic (three goals, one assist) got the Crunch on the board less than a minute later.

But the Spirit then scored five unanswered goals -- two by Dade -- to take a 15-2 lead with 13:56 remaining in the game.

The Crunch eventually pulled within 15-9 on Karic's three pointer with 4:56 left, but would get no closer.

NOTES: Yesterday's game was the Spirit's second in a five-game, nine-day stretch. . . . The first 2,000 fans who attend Saturday's game against the Blizzard at the Arena at 1:05 p.m. will receive a free squeeze bottle courtesy of Patrick U.S.A. . . . Marinaro's five points against the Dayton Dynamo on Friday gave him 100 points after 15 games, an NPSL record. Marinaro is on a pace to score 258 points, which would shatter the league record of 180 set by Andy Chapman of Detroit in 1990-91.

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