Rockers deal Spirit first loss

December 18, 1993|By Doug Brown | Doug Brown,Staff Writer

All the Spirit's streaks disintegrated in one night.

Before a national ESPN2 audience and a Baltimore Arena gathering of 7,344, the Detroit Rockers ended the Spirit's winning streak at 10 with a 12-8 victory. It was the Spirit's largest crowd of the season and its lowest point total.

Defender Rusty Troy wasted few words in assessing the Spirit's shortcomings.

"Defensive lapses," he said. "Didn't stay with their runners. Didn't hit the target. Didn't play well. That about sums it up."

The Spirit was stopped three shy of the National Professional Soccer League record of 13 straight season-opening victories by the 1989-90 Canton Invaders. After 14 consecutive regular-season home victories, it was the Spirit's first loss here since Jan. 23, to the Wichita Wings.

And Cris Vaccaro, the NPSL's top-rated goalie, absorbed his first defeat after nine wins.

Before the game, aware it was the Spirit's first national TV appearance this season and only the second ever, coach Kenny Cooper said, "It's exciting, like opening night. This game has special meaning, and TV makes it that way."

Cooper was hardly excited by the result, however. Much of the damage was done by former Blast linemates Andy Chapman and Drago, who combined for three Detroit goals and four assists.

Chapman broke an 8-8 tie early in the fourth quarter and Tim Ernst added an insurance goal with 2:20 remaining. Detroit goalie Bryan Finnerty shut out the Spirit in the fourth quarter.

Even the use of a sixth attacker in the final 2:20 was to no avail. Paul Wright came on in place of Vaccaro, but the Spirit came up empty.

It was the Rockers' fourth straight win, raising their record to 7-6. Dan O'Keefe said former Spirit player Steve Boardman was the key.

"Boardy inspired his teammates," said O'Keefe, a former Detroit player now with the Spirit. "They respect him, so they worked their butts off, knowing how much he wanted to beat his old team."

Cooper, normally a man of many words, summed up the evening FTC with: "We didn't play well."

The passing wasn't crisp. Players didn't work hard enough away from the ball. They became individualistic, lacking the cohesiveness they displayed in the first 10 games.

"I'm glad there's a game tomorrow," Cooper said, referring to tonight's road game against Buffalo.

Lance Johnson gave Baltimore a 2-0 lead with his first points since Nov. 29. After Drago tied it at 2, Boardman launched a shot that glanced off Ernst into the goal for a 4-2 lead. Early in the second period, Joey Kirk made it 6-2 Detroit.

In the final four minutes of the first half, Jason Dieter drove home his third goal of the season and Wright scored a three-pointer for a 7-6 Spirit edge. The Spirit hasn't trailed at halftime this season.

Wright picked up his goal by intercepting a sloppy pass and lofting the ball over the head of Finnerty, who had been drawn out of the cage.

NOTES: Rookie Rob Ukrop, recovering from a broken jaw, drove up from Richmond, Va., and was introduced before the game with the other players. Ukrop won't be able to play until late next month. . . . Shawn Boehmcke, the rookie from Loyola, might start tonight in Buffalo if No. 1 goalie Vaccaro hasn't bounced back from last night's rigors. "As long as Cris feels he can play at his top level, he'll be in there," Cooper said. . . . Last night marked the Spirit's first appearance on ESPN2 in the NPSL Game of the Week. ESPN2 also will televise Spirit games Feb. 11 against the Buffalo Blizzard and March 11 against the Cleveland Crunch. ESPN2 is showing 16 NPSL regular-season games. . . . Detroit's Finnerty, who has started 82 straight games, came in as the NPSL's leading goalie in saves and minutes. . . . The Spirit will visit Buffalo tonight and Cleveland Dec. 26.

Detroit ..4 2 2 4 -- 12

Baltimore 2 5 1 0 -- 8

First period--1. Baltimore, Johnson, 2 pt.

(Wright), 3:15. 2. Detroit, Drago, 2 pt. (Chapman), 10:18. 3. Detroit, Ernst, 2 pt. (Boardman), 11:53.

Second period--4. Detroit, Kirk, 2 pt. (unassisted), 8:55. 5. Baltimore, Dieter, 2 pt. (Wittman), 11:06. 6. Baltimore, Wright, 3 pt. ( unassisted), 13:23. Penalties--None.

Third period--7. Detroit, Chapman, 2 pt. (Drago), 5:51. 8. Baltimore, Troy, 1 pt. (Wright), pp, 14:57. Penalties--Kirk, Det (too many men on field), 12:54. Negrete, Det (too many men on field), 14:57.

Fourth period--9. Detroit, Chapman, 2 pt. (Drago), 4:30. 10. Detroit, Ernst, 2 pt. (Chapman), 12:40. Penalties--None.

Shots on goal--Detroit 10 8 11 4-33. Baltimore 9 10 5 12-36. Goalies--Detroit, Finnerty (19 shots, 15 saves). Baltimore, Vaccaro (22 shots, 16 saves); Wright 2:20 fourth quarter (0 shots, 0 saves. Referees--Manfre, Kennedy, Weisengoff. A--7,344.

SPIRIT TONIGHT

Opponent: Buffalo Blizzard

Site: Memorial Auditorium, Buffalo

Time: 7:35

Radio: WWLG (1360 AM)

Outlook: The Spirit is 3-0 on the road, and Buffalo is 5-1 at home. In the teams' only previous meeting, Dec. 4, the Spirit won, 17-3, as Paul Wright had a four-goal, eight-point outing. Buffalo is No. 2 (to St. Louis) in attendance in the National Professional Soccer League with a 7,855 average. Dave Hoggan is the only Buffalo player in the league's top 20 in points. The Blizzard leads the NPSL with a power-play conversion percentage of 75.

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