Spirit comes through in crunch time, 16-14

March 26, 1994|By Dale Meggas | Dale Meggas,Special to The Sun

CLEVELAND -- The Spirit rallied behind three goals by Tarik Walker to hold off the Cleveland Crunch, 16-14, last night before 10,016 at the Cleveland State Convocation Center.

The win, which gives the Spirit a three-game lead over the Crunch, just about assures the Spirit home-field advantage in the first two rounds of the NPSL playoffs.

Although the victory didn't clinch the American Division title for the Spirit, Baltimore has the first tiebreaker in its hand, having swept the four-game series with Cleveland.

"We build ourselves on discipline," said Spirit coach Kenny Cooper. "We knew that it would be a tough game and we had to come in and play hard,"

The Spirit did it the hard way, beating a Cleveland team that came in with a 14-3 home mark, second only to Baltimore's 17-1 record.

"We had some players come in and give great efforts," said Cooper. "Cris Vaccaro in goal, and rookies like Walker. This was a tense game."

The loss was hard for Cleveland coach Gary Hindley. "If we win, we are one back and they have a tough game in St. Louis [today]. But now we are three back. We came in trying to take them one at a time, but this league is designed for every game to mean something in the way of a playoff spot right down to April 2, so this is hard to take."

The Crunch fell behind 2-0, but tied it at 2 and didn't trail again until Walker put the Spirit up 12-10 with his third of the night at 5:17 of the fourth quarter.

The Crunch led 6-4 after two quarters. The Spirit quickly tied it in the third quarter only to have Cleveland answer to take its third lead at 8-6. Walker tied the game for the third time with a two-pointer at 6:07 into the third, but Shawn Medved drilled a bullet home for his 34th at 9:44. Clark Brisson evened the game again for Baltimore at 0:27 of the fourth, but Cleveland's Tommy Tanner put Cleveland ahead for the fourth time with a goal at 0:51.

Then it was Walker's turn to shine, getting consecutive goals at 5:17 and 6:12. Paul Wright gave the Spirit a four-point lead before Doug Miller's second of three goals drew Cleveland within 14-12 at 8:57.

Cleveland scoring aces Zoran Karic and Hector Marinaro were both ejected along with Cleveland's Troy Dayak for misconduct in an emotional fourth quarter.

Baltimore .. 2 .. 2 .. 2 .. 10 .. -- .. 16

Cleveland .. 0 .. 6 .. 2 ... 6 .. -- .. 14

SPIRIT TONIGHT

Opponent: St. Louis Ambush

Site: St. Louis Arena

Time: 8:35

TV: None

Radio: WWLG (1360 AM), WAMD (970 AM)

Outlook: This is the last in the Spirit's string of five road games. The team will play the Buffalo Blizzard Tuesday at Baltimore Arena. The first 2,000 fans 16 and under attending Tuesday's game receive free NPSL soccer balls. St. Louis is one game behind the Detroit Rockers in the race for the NPSL National Division title. With four games remaining, the Spirit leads the American Division. The Ambush is 7-8 against American Division teams and 15-7 against National Division rivals. The Spirit is 2-0 against St. Louis. The Ambush's David Doyle and Mark Moser rank No. 4 and No. 10 in the NPSL points race with 158 and 127, respectively. Baltimore's Cris Vaccaro is the league's third-rated goalie, and Jeff Robben is the seventh.

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