Spirit doesn't hold back, rides Wave early for win

March 14, 1994|By David Schwabe | David Schwabe,Special to The Sun

MILWAUKEE -- The Spirit just can't seem to behave itself on the road.

The hosts were expecting the Spirit to be tentative and cautious while in their home.

Instead, Baltimore opened with an aggressive, in-your-face stance that threw the Milwaukee Wave off balance and allowed the Spirit to hang on for a 14-11 victory yesterday at the Bradley Center.

"We wanted to come out right away and start something up," Spirit goalkeeper Cris Vaccaro said. "We did just what we wanted to do."

The victory allowed the Spirit to improve to 24-9, three games better than second-place Cleveland in the American Division of the National Professional Soccer League. Each team has seven games remaining in the regular season.

Milwaukee, which was playing its third game in three days, fell to 19-16.

The possibility that the Wave would struggle after playing such a stretch was not lost on Spirit coach Kenny Cooper. After the opening kick, the Spirit immediately came out in a high-pressure, man-to-man defense that stretched the length of the field.

Milwaukee appeared to be caught off guard and it didn't take long for the Spirit to take advantage of the disarray.

"We just weren't ready for them to come out like that," Wave defender Rene Ortiz said.

Rusty Troy scored at the 4:01 mark of the first quarter when he beat diving Wave goalkeeper Victor Nogueira, giving the Spirit a 2-0 lead.

Milwaukee's defense crumbled further and allowed Goran Hunjak to score on a counterattack midway through the first quarter. Barry Stitz caught the the Wave defense asleep in the second quarter on another counterattack to give the Spirit a 6-0 lead.

"When you play three games in three days, you've got to put pressure on a team like that," Cooper said. "That's really what we did: gave them the full-court press. I thought we had opportunities to do even more, too."

The Spirit held a 6-1 lead at halftime and pushed the margin to 10-3 after the third quarter when Paul Wright and Clark Brisson scored to offset a goal by the Wave's Dan Donigan.

Milwaukee pulled to within 12-7 at 8:21 of the fourth quarter when former Spirit forward Michael King scored on Vaccaro. But John Abe made it 14-7 just 10 seconds later off of a restart, a goal that would turn out to be important.

With about four minutes left, the Wave pulled Nogueira and put in defender Albert Adade as the sixth attacker. When Mike Stankovic gave up the ball in the Spirit's box and Michael Gailey scored, it brought Milwaukee within 14-9. Donigan added another goal with just 54 seconds left to pull within 14-11.

The Wave needed a three-pointer to tie the game and nearly got it. King launched a shot from three-point range that hit the crossbar above Vaccaro as the buzzer sounded, allowing the Spirit to hang on for the victory.

"The only chance they had was a three-pointer," Vaccaro said. "Thank God the post was there because it was a deflection and could have went in. "We worked so hard for 59 minutes and 58 seconds and it would have been a disaster for that one to go in at the buzzer."

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