The Spirit can invariably count on the Canton Invaders to remedy its ills.
This time, though, it wasn't easy.
Coming off a loss to the archrival Harrisburg Heat seven days before, the Spirit edged Canton, 14-12, on Jason Dieter's goal 4:02 into overtime last night before 3,718 at the Baltimore Arena.
The victory raised the Spirit's record against Canton in two-plus seasons to 8-1 and to 5-0 at the Arena. The only time the Invaders beat the Spirit was Feb. 2 in Canton, Ohio, 17-16. That broke Baltimore's seven-game winning streak against the Invaders.
"At the end of the game, we had a sixth attacker, but nobody would shoot," said Dieter, playing with a fractured wrist. "We were just ping-ponging around like we had a lot of time, but not shooting."
Dieter's winning goal last night stemmed from Brad Smith's missed shot.
"It was deflected, and I was in the right place at the right time," Dieter said. "I caught it with the inside of my foot. It would have been a shame to miss."
But Spirit coach Dave MacWilliams was not pleased.
"Except for the win, it was a bad night," he said. "We made a lot of mental mistakes and didn't go hard for the ball. We gave up three goals within two yards of the goal, and that shouldn't happen when you have people on them."
Jon Parry led the Spirit with three goals and one assist, but left the game with a sprained ankle with 7:48 remaining. He likely will be out two to six weeks.
Parry's third goal was a big one. After Canton pulled to 9-8 early in the fourth quarter, Parry nailed a one-point shootout attempt for a 10-8 edge after Canton's Scott Spencer was penalized for tripping.
Smith then scored his first goal in a Baltimore uniform for a 12-10 lead, but Steve Provan tied it at 12 with 6:39 left.
Marcello Carrera, Canton's early season scoring leader, chipped away at the Spirit's 9-2 halftime lead by scoring the only goals of the third period and pulling the Invaders to 9-5.
Spirit newcomer Philip Gyau entered the game in the second half, marking his first pro indoor game. His Spirit debut was delayed by arthroscopic knee surgery in mid-September.
Parry, the Spirit's scoring leader, had in the game's first goal, a two-pointer late in the opening period. Kevin Sloan made it 3-0 before Carlos Ledesma scored for Canton.
In the second quarter, the Spirit built its lead to 9-2 by halftime on goals by Sloan, Tim Wittman, Derrick Marcano and Parry.
The game represented firsts for the Spirit's Joe Mallia and Smith.
Mallia celebrated his 25th birthday by starting his first Spirit game, in place of Cris Vaccaro, and made 20 saves. MacWilliams plans to start Mallia on occasion even if Vaccaro is healthy. Mallia had a 33-29 record in two seasons with the Harrisburg Heat and two months last season with the Dayton Dynamo.
Smith, acquired this week for cash from Dayton, made his first Spirit appearance. He had a goal and the assist on Dieter's game-winner.
"I always enjoyed playing in Baltimore," Smith said. "It's a small field and I felt comfortable playing here."
Opponent: Cleveland Crunch
Site: Baltimore Arena
Radio: WWLG (1360 AM), WAMD (970 AM)
Tickets: Many available
Outlook: The defending National Professional Soccer League champion Crunch is off to a strong start as expected. Cleveland, picked by the coaches to win the title again, has the league's most potent one-two scoring punch in Zoran Karic and Hector Marinaro. They finished first and second with 267 and 253 points, respectively -- more than 70 ahead of No. 3 Andy Chapman of the Detroit Rockers -- and were two-three with 21 and 19 behind the Dayton Dynamo's Dennis Brose after the first two games this season. The defense is anchored by goalie Otto Orf and Tim Tyma, starting his 11th season.