After five straight wins, Spirit flying high before Crunch time

February 27, 1996|By Doug Brown | Doug Brown,SUN STAFF

Only five weeks earlier, the Spirit had lost a game in Buffalo midway through a nose-dive that would lead to the resignation of coach Dave MacWilliams.

The locker room scene was entirely different Sunday in Buffalo. The Spirit won its fifth straight, raised its record under Mike Stankovic, MacWilliams' successor, to 6-1 and climbed over the host Buffalo Blizzard into second place in the NPSL's American Division.

"Things do change in a month," Spirit general manager Drew Forrester said. "The players were jubilant in the locker room. It was the most excited I've ever seen a team after a regular-season win."

Spurred by a sweep of the weekend's three games, the Spirit is preparing for its biggest match of the season, Friday night against the Cleveland Crunch, the NPSL's winningest team, at the Baltimore Arena.

That will launch another three-game weekend. After closing its home season Saturday against the Cincinnati Silverbacks, the Spirit will go to Cleveland Sunday for a rematch with the Crunch.

Attendance milestones

The NPSL reached two attendance milestones over the weekend, passing the million mark for the fourth straight season and surpassing 9 million all-time. Attendance for the season is 1,001,157 for 205 games -- a 4,884 average.

The defending champion St. Louis Ambush, which has the largest crowd of the season (13,417) and five of the top 10, leads the league with an 8,655 average. The Spirit is No. 7 in the 13-team NPSL at 4,802.

Wave rolling

The Milwaukee Wave had a big weekend, stretching its winning streak to eight games and becoming the third team to clinch a playoff spot, joining Cleveland and the Kansas City Attack. In the process, the Wave climbed over Kansas City into first place in the National Division.

The Detroit Rockers rebounded from their worst defensive effort of the season, a 31-12 loss Friday to Cleveland, to their best effort two days later. With Dennis Brose leading with seven points against his former team, Detroit scored the final 17 points in a 17-2 rout of Cincinnati.

Miscellaneous

The NPSL will play its first game outside the United States when Kansas City and the Chicago Power meet in Montreal on March 10. Canada will have a team next season: the Toronto Shooting Stars. . . . Cleveland's Hector Marinaro extended his league record for consecutive games with a three-point goal to eight. Marinaro, the NPSL scoring leader with 186 points, and teammate Zoran Karic are the only players in league history to score 200 points in a season, both having done it each of the past three seasons. Marinaro is likely to reach 200 this weekend against the Spirit, since Cleveland plays Baltimore twice. The Spirit's Franklin McIntosh is just as likely to become the first NPSL player to score 1,000 points. He enters the weekend with 990. . . . Harrisburg's Danny Kelly is the NPSL Player of the Week after recording 18 points in two victories.

(NPSL standings, Page 7D)

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