Feisty Spirit uses defense to top Crunch, 19-10 Penalties mark win over NPSL's leaders

March 02, 1996|By Steven Kivinski | Steven Kivinski,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Penalties, fights and ejections overshadowed an otherwise stellar performance by the Spirit last night.

When the dust finally settled, three players had been ejected, 42 minutes in penalties were assessed and Baltimore had a 19-10 victory over the winningest team in the NPSL -- the Cleveland Crunch.

And they did it with defense.

Playing before a record crowd of 9,114 at the Baltimore Arena, the Spirit ran out to an 11-2 lead in the second quarter and looked back only to make sure no one was charging them.

"In this kind of intense game you're going to have things happen," said Baltimore coach Mike Stankovic, who shared the game's top scoring honors with Franklin McIntosh (five points each). "This game reminded me of a hockey game, but I think both teams played well. Both teams wanted to win badly and that's what happens sometimes. It was a very emotional game and a great game to watch."

The game clock showed 24.7 seconds left in the third quarter as the officials tried for 15 minutes to sort out a mess created when Cleveland's Tim Tyma began kicking Brad Smith while he was on the ground. While Smith was hobbling back to his bench, Tyma broke away from officials and started to charge Smith, but Tyma was met by a shoulder and forearm from Baltimore's Lance Johnson. Tyma and Johnson were ejected and Cleveland's Zoran Karic later joined them for abusing an official.

"I think we showed a lot of composure as a team," said Baltimore defender Dave Vaudreuil. "We got them down and they were frustrated and they're the type of team that will try to do any little sleight of hand trick to get you off your game, and we just focused on playing soccer and took it to them."

Cleveland, which boasts the league's top two scorers in Karic and Hector Marinaro, got a pair of two-point goals from Marinaro in the final 40 seconds of the first half to cut the deficit to 11-6.

The Crunch (28-5), which could have clinched an American Division title with a win last night, was hit with a barrage of penalties early and late in the third quarter.

Baltimore (20-12), which has won seven of its past eight and yielded less than nine points a game since Stankovic took over as coach Jan. 21, capitalized as Stankovic scored a power-play goal on a feed from Omid Namazi to make it 13-6 with 13:37 left in the third quarter.

Namazi gave Cleveland two points by accidentally heading a shot into his own goal.

Stankovic and Karic exchanged words after Stankovic knocked down Marinaro, and moments later Stankovic started tangling with another Cleveland player and was sent to the penalty box.

McIntosh, who is five points away from becoming the first player to reach the 1,000-point plateau, initiated and ended a 9-0 run for the Spirit early in the second quarter. McIntosh fed Namazi to start the surge and scored on a feed from Stankovic to finish it for an 11-2 lead.

Kevin Sloan opened the scoring midway through the first quarter when he converted a crossing pass from Jamie Christie, and Oscar Draguicevich tied it at 2-2 on a 1:14 left in the first quarter.

"That was typical Cleveland-Baltimore game," said Spirit goalkeeper Chris Vaccaro (19 saves). "They have a very potent offense so you have to give a lot of credit to our players. We fought very, very hard and played well defensively.

"It was a key for us to come out and score the first one after halftime to get the momentum back because we knew they were going to come out like gangbusters in the second half."

Spirit today

Opponent: Cincinnati Silverbacks

Site: Baltimore Arena

Time: 2:05

Radio: WASA (1330 AM)

Outlook: This marks the end of the Spirit's home season; the remaining seven games are away, starting with tomorrow's against the Cleveland Crunch. The teams split their previous two meetings. Cincinnati's Shawn Medved is the NPSL's No. 3 scorer. Carlos Pena is the fifth-rated goalie. This is the second consecutive three-game weekend for both Baltimore and Cincinnati.

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