Spirit beats Crunch to end 3-game skid

March 12, 1994|By Steven Kivinski | Steven Kivinski,Contributing Writer

Some wins have more meaning than others and the Baltimore Spirit's 19-13 victory last night over the Cleveland Crunch meant a lot.

Not only did it put an end to a three-game losing streak and give the Spirit (22-10) some momentum heading into a four-game road trip, but it clinched the season series with the Crunch (21-11), improving Baltimore's chances of being host to the National Professional Soccer League playoffs.

Behind two goals and one assist from Goran Hunjak and Paul Wright, the Spirit improved its home to 17-1 before a crowd of 9,510 that helped the Spirit set a new single-season attendance record at 113,759.

Baltimore took a 17-14 lead in the series that dates back to 1989 when Baltimore called itself the Blast and league and the teams played in the Major Soccer League.

"It wasn't pretty and it wasn't your typical Baltimore-Cleveland game but a win is a win and I'll take it," said Spirit coach Kenny Cooper. "The bottom line is we didn't play well and we still figured out a way to win. We turned the ball over a lot and we didn't play with much patience tonight but we got the big goal at the right time."

The Crunch, which had already bowed to Spirit twice this season by scores of 17-3 and 19-8, got on the scoreboard first when Hector Marinaro scored on a feed from Zoran Karic. The opening goal gave Cleveland a 2-0 lead with 11:14 left in the first quarter and helped Karic tie the NPSL record for goals in a season at 80.

The Spirit, which entered the game with a one-game lead over the Crunch in the American Division, answered at the 7:45 mark as Doug Neely fed Tarik Walker to make it 2-2.

Baltimore went on to outshoot the Crunch 11-9 in the first period but six instinctive saves by Cleveland goalkeeper Otto Orf kept the game in a deadlock heading into the second quarter.

Goran Hunjak put the Spirit out front 4-2 just 2:49 into the second quarter when he finished a Clark Brisson pass off the glass.

Baltimore's defense showed little resemblance to the team that yielded just under 25 points in each of their last three games as it held Cleveland scoreless in the second quarter and preserved a 4-2 halftime lead.

Hunjak returned the favor and fed Brisson for his 22nd goal of the season, giving Baltimore a 6-2 advantage.

"I think the players were a little bit nervous because of the importance of the game," said Hunjak. "When ever we play against Cleveland we play an open game and you can expect a lot of goals but both of goalies had made some great saves."

Karic extended his consecutive games with a goal streak to 50 and pulled the Crunch back to within two when he found the net on a severe angle goal before Hunjak returned the margin to four on a shot that caromed off of Orf's heel.

Sixteen seconds was all that separated Cleveland's next two goals as the Crunch tied the game at 8-8 on goals by Karic and Mark Thomas.

Baltimore looked as though it would own a two-point lead heading into the fourth quarter following a goal by Wright but Cleveland knotted the game at 10 when Orf threw in tying as time expired in the third.

Vaccaro made some key saves during the pivotal fourth quarter and finished the night with 16. Orf had 18 saves.

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