Blizzard's torrid start smothers Spirit, 21-14 Buffalo scores 17 points in first half vs. Baltimore

January 20, 1996|By Mike Haim | Mike Haim,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- In the first game of its most important weekend of the season so far, the Baltimore Spirit looked ragged in a 21-14 NPSL loss to the Buffalo Blizzard last night.

The Spirit battled back in the second half, but Buffalo's 17-point first half was the difference.

The Spirit's task gets no easier tonight. Playing host to the Kansas City Attack, Baltimore faces a team with a 13-game winning streak, which includes a 12-8 win at Harrisburg last night.

The loss was the fourth in five games for the Spirit (12-8). The Blizzard (13-7), on the other hand, has won five of its last six. More importantly, the Spirit fell into fourth place, a game behind Buffalo and one-half behind Harrisburg in the NPSL's American Division.

Spirit coach Dave MacWilliams said: "We're in a funk right now. We worked hard the second half, but it's not good enough. You can't give up 17 points in the first half and expect to win."

Baltimore had plenty of good scoring opportunities early, but was foiled by sloppy shooting and a tenacious Buffalo defense.

"That's how you win games: You sacrifice yourself," MacWilliams explained. "We didn't do that enough defensively. You're only as good as your defense."

Buffalo's 11 first-quarter points marked the most against the Spirit in one quarter this season.

Baltimore was then victimized by penalties in the second quarter. The Blizzard converted all its three shootout kicks and added a power-play goal to cushion the lead. Buffalo held a 17-6 halftime advantage.

Two-point goals by Kevin Sloan and John Garvey 41 seconds apart in the third quarter reduced the Buffalo advantage to 17-10. Lance Johnson and Franklin McIntosh helped chip away more, with McIntosh's re-start goal making the score 19-14.

"I thought we were right back in the thick of things," MacWilliams said. "We put ourselves in that situation by giving up 17 points."

Buffalo was led by Andrew Crawford and Paul Dougherty, who had four goals apiece. Gino DiFlorio added three goals.

Sloan had two goals for Baltimore before being ejected with 6:23 left in the game.

Spirit . 4 2 8 0 -- 14

Buffalo 11 6 2 2 -- 21

Spirit tonight

Opponent: Kansas City Attack

Site: Baltimore Arena

Time: 7:35

Radio: WWLG (1360 AM), WASA (1330 AM)

Outlook: Thanks to a team-record 13-game winning streak, Kansas City leads the National Professional Soccer League's National Division. The Attack defense held the opposition under 10 points in eight of nine games during one recent stretch. This is the teams' first meeting this season and the Attack's only appearance here. Ex-Spirit Goran Hunjak is Kansas City's points leader.

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