Spirit pads lead with two wins

March 15, 1994|By Doug Brown | Doug Brown,Sun Staff Writer

The Spirit may not be losing its grip on the National Professional Soccer League's American Division lead, after all.

A spate of defeats, four on the road, had trimmed the Spirit's advantage to one game as it plunged into last weekend's schedule. But victories over the Cleveland Crunch and the Milwaukee Wave restored the Spirit's lead to three over second-place Cleveland.

With seven games remaining, the Spirit's magic number is four. Any NPSL combination of Baltimore wins or Cleveland defeats totaling four will give the Spirit the division title. The Spirit clinched its season series with the Crunch with Friday's win for a 3-0 edge, with one game left.

The down side is that five of the Spirit's last seven games are on the road, where the club's record is 7-8. The only NPSL team with a .500 road record is the St. Louis Ambush at 9-9.

Cleveland pair rolling

The Crunch's Hector Marinaro and Zoran Karic, one-two in the NPSL points race, have piled up a combined 424 points, an average of almost 13 a game. With seven games left, they're only 46 shy of their output last season.

Karic broke the NPSL assists record of 80, set in 1990-91 by the Chicago Power's Pato Margetic, with two in the loss to the Spirit. With 226 points, Karic is closing in on Marinaro's record of 248 established last year. Marinaro has 88 goals, 12 short of his NPSL-record 100 last season.

Neely trims locks

After wearing his hair long for almost 10 years, defender Doug Neely got a drastic cut -- "short short, one inch all over." Although he had been thinking about it for a while, it wasn't until after Friday's practice that he strolled into a barber shop a few hours before the game.

Said Spirit official Vince Fiduccia: "We're 2-0 with Neely having short hair and 22-9 with a long-haired Neely."

Neely missed Sunday's game in Milwaukee with a strained back, but says he plans to play Friday on the road against the Kansas City Attack. Another defender, Eric Dade, turned his ankle and left the game with five minutes left, but also is expected to play Friday.

Miscellaneous

Tarik Walker, with 57 points, is on the verge of breaking Barry Stitz's Spirit record by a rookie (63) last year. . . . Detroit Rockers G Bryan Finnerty, who has an NPSL-record 104 consecutive starts, was named Player of the Week after stopping 19 shots in a win over the Wichita Wings. . . . With his goal against Milwaukee, Paul Wright extended his consecutive games streak for scoring at least a point to 16, one shy of Goran Hunjak's Spirit record. He's seven away from Hunjak's points record of 141. Hunjak needs 10 points for his second straight 100-point season.

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