NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. -- For the Baltimore Spirit, the United States Youth Soccer Region I championships have become a numbers game. It's not how many goals the team can score -- it managed five in two games yesterday. It's whether the Spirit can find 11 players to put on the field.
Dan Hicks converted Matt Nesbitt's cross in injury time as the Spirit salvaged a 2-2 with Northern Virginia's Braddock Road Falcons in a under-20 match yesterday afternoon at Fort Niagara Park. Earlier, Shane Dougherty scored twice and Mike Barger added one as the Spirit defeated the Boston Volcanos, 3-0.
The Spirit brought only 10 field players and two goalkeepers after three players canceled at the last minute because of injury or scheduling conflicts. Baltimore still is in control; if the Spirit wins its last three tourney games, then the defending U-19 national champions will capture the six-team round robin and repeat as Region I titlist.
The Columbia Darby's 1-1 draw with Eastern New York's Capital United in the U-17 draw could prove much more costly.
In the afternoon, the Darby held on for a 2-1 decision over Eastern Pennsylvania's Ukranians on goals by Marwan Tulloch and Mike Bagrosky.
To advance to tomorrow's semifinals, the Darby today must beat the Massachusetts Bandits by at least four goals more than Capital's winning margin over the Ukranians, or hope for the Ukranians to defeat or tie the New York side.
"We will do our part [by winning big]," said Darby coach Thomas
Graham. "I just hope Pennsylvania plays hard."