Spirit gives it its best without Wright, Vaccaro

April 01, 1994|By Doug Brown | Doug Brown,Sun Staff Writer

Paul Wright stood before his Spirit teammates during a meeting Tuesday and issued a reminder.

"You guys can win without me," said Wright, who has broken or tied eight Spirit records and is No. 8 in the NPSL points race. "This is a well-rounded team. Not just one player makes it."

Wright was going to sit out that night's game against the Buffalo Blizzard with a tender knee. He was making the point that the Spirit should proceed with the business of winning even though it had clinched the NPSL's American Division title.

When Wright missed two games in midseason to play in a tournament with the Los Angeles Salsa, his summer team, the Spirit won anyway. And without Wright Tuesday, the Spirit beat Buffalo in overtime.

"We're 3-0 without me," Wright said as the Spirit prepared for its final two regular-season games, both against the Harrisburg Heat, here tonight and tomorrow on the road.

The Spirit will play both games not only without Wright, but without goalie Cris Vaccaro as well. Vaccaro has a fractured nose from a hit he absorbed Tuesday night, but wouldn't have played anyway. Rookie Shawn Boehmcke will start in goal. Coach Kenny Cooper also may rest Rusty Troy and Doug Neely, both battered from a long season.

"The key is to have everybody healthy for the playoffs," said Cooper. "These two games are an opportunity for our young players like Boehmcke, [Ricky] Bush and [Billy] Reinhardt to play for a division winner. And our goal is still to win."

The Spirit will face the Canton Invaders or the Heat in the first round of the playoffs. If it's Canton, the best-of-three series will start Tuesday in Canton and continue here April 9 and, if necessary, April 11. If it's Harrisburg, it'll start a week from tonight there and continue at the Arena the same two dates.

The Spirit is 5-6 lifetime against Harrisburg, including two defeats in the opening round of last year's playoffs. But the team at least has proved it can win at Harrisburg. The Spirit was 0-5 there until rookie Rob Ukrop's overtime goal produced a 15-13 win in November.

SPIRIT TONIGHT

Opponent: Harrisburg Heat

Site: Baltimore Arena

Time: 7:35

TV: None

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

Tickets: Many available

Outlook: Harrisburg, battling the Canton Invaders for the fourth playoff spot in the NPSL's American Division, is 7-12 on the road. The division champion Spirit, playing its final regular-season home game, is 18-1 at the Arena. Lee Tschantret, the Heat's No. 2 scorer with 88 points behind Franklin McIntosh (139), is questionable with a broken toe. Danny Kelly (47) is probable with a sprained ankle. G Brett Phillips has started four straight, winning three. The Heat is coming off victories over the Dayton Dynamo and Detroit Rockers in which it scored 50 points. Spirit players will remain on the field for an autograph session after the game.

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