Road-weary Spirit at a loss without Vaccaro in goal

March 22, 1994|By Doug Brown | Doug Brown,Sun Staff Writer

Life without Cris Vaccaro, particularly on the road, is most unpleasant for the Spirit.

Vaccaro, who has been among the National Professional Soccer League's three top-rated goalies all season, had a slightly pulled hamstring and missed games Friday at the Kansas City Attack and Sunday at the Detroit Rockers, both losses. Shawn Boehmcke, a rookie out of Loyola College, replaced him and played decently, although not with Vaccaro's effectiveness.

"Do I think Cris could have been the difference?" coach Kenny Cooper said, noting the scores were 17-11 (Kansas City) and 16-13 (Detroit). "Yeah, I do. Nothing against Shawn. He's young and improving. But it's different when Cris is in there."

Terming Vaccaro's absence "precautionary," Cooper said the veteran probably would start Friday's road game against the Cleveland Crunch. "The idea is to get him into the playoffs healthy," Cooper said.

Mount Neely erupts

What has Cooper been feeding Doug Neely for breakfast?

In his first 35 games this season, Neely had five goals. In the games inKansas City and Detroit, he erupted for seven. In his previous 65 NPSL games, over two seasons, Neely had only 10 goals.

"We moved him from defense to midfield," Cooper said. "Over the weekend, he was in the right position at the right time and everything he hit went in. He's an adaptable player who can do a lot of different things for a team."

Road is rocky

The Spirit is clinging to a two-game lead in the American Division despite losing five of its past seven games and seven of its past eight on the road. And the journey continues: The Spirit, whose 7-10 road record is one of the best in the league, will travel to Cleveland on Friday and to the St. Louis Ambush on Saturday.

"I've been in soccer all my life, and it's always been a dogfight on the road," Cooper said. "It's different and difficult. The Baltimore Arena is one of the smallest in the league. The others are wider and longer, presenting different space and angles."


Cleveland's Hector Marinaro, three shy of his NPSL single-season goals record of 100 last season, was named Player of the Week for the third time after scoring nine goals in two games. . . . The Spirit's next home game is at 6:35 p.m. next Tuesday against Buffalo in a makeup of the iced-out Feb. 11 date. The Famous Chicken will perform and the first 2,000 fans age 16 and under will receive NPSL soccer balls. . . . The Spirit's Tarik Walker is the leading Rookie of the Year candidate with a rookie-high 62 points. . . . With a goal and an assist against Detroit, Paul Wright extended his streak of games in which he has scored a point to 18, breaking Goran Hunjak's record of 17 last season. Wright is two away from Hunjak's club record for points (141).

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