Spirit rally falls short against Rockers, 16-13

March 21, 1994|By Robert Jones | Robert Jones,Special to The Sun

DETROIT -- The Spirit came not only to avenge, but to play well. At least it completed one objective. Despite yesterday's 16-13 loss to the Detroit Rockers, coach Kenny Cooper thought his team sent a message.

"It was some wonderful soccer by both teams," Cooper said of the meeting of National Professional Soccer League division leaders. "We proved we match up well, and I thought our effort was phenomenal."

The Spirit (24-11) rallied in the fourth quarter with an 8-0 run to pull to 14-13 with 4:54 left.

After the Rockers' Sean Bowers scored his third goal, nine seconds into the fourth period, Doug Neely countered with three two-point goals and Goran Hunjak added a two-pointer. With momentum on its side, the Spirit continued to pressure Rockers goalie Bryan Finnerty, taking eight of its 18 fourth-quarter shots in the final minutes.

"We had our chances," said Cooper. "Finnerty is a great stand-up goalie and we did something differently with him in the second half."

The difference was shot selection. In the fourth quarter, instead of straight-on, telegraphed shots, the Spirit moved the ball around in the Rockers' zone, sneaking it down low and taking close, angled shots.

Cooper said the slumping Spirit, loser of seven of its past 11, had better start playing a more physical game, though yesterday's matchup featured some crushing blows by the Spirit.

The Spirit started the game strongly, leading 4-0 early in the second quarter. The team seemed determined to avenge its only home loss, 12-8, suffered Dec. 17 in a nationally televised game.

The Spirit controlled every aspect of the game in the first quarter, and if it weren't for Finnerty, the damage could have been irreversible. Baltimore had 12 shots in the first quarter; Detroit managed four.

Credit the Spirit offense for keeping the ball away from the Rockers (23-14). Hunjak assisted two first-period goals to give the Spirit a 3-0 lead.

Rusty Troy opened the scoring at 2:06 on a power play. With 12 seconds left Neely scored a two-point goal. Paul Wright scored a power-play goal 15 seconds into the second quarter, making it 4-0.

Drago scored a goal and assisted Ian Fairbrother on another, before Neely scored a power-play goal off Wright's assist to make the halftime score 5-4. Then the Rockers took over, outscoring Spirit 8-0 in the third quarter.

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