The NPSL trumpeted its arrival for weeks. So did the Spirit.
But the man who would deliver it, Franklin McIntosh, was nonchalant.
McIntosh became the first man in the NPSL's 12-year history to score 1,000 points yesterday as the Spirit stretched its winning streak to six with a 17-12 victory over the Cincinnati Silverbacks before 5,194 at the Baltimore Arena.
With the win, the second-place Spirit clinched one of the four American Division playoff spots.
McIntosh entered with 995 points and scored the first goal of the day, a three-pointer. Then, with 5:57 gone, he scored another three-pointer, which was beautiful not on its own merits but only because it sent him to 1,001.
"It was pretty funny," McIntosh said. "It was a deflection. It was a goal, but not a nice one."
From the other end of the field, Spirit goalie Joe Mallia watched with amusement. By no means was the goal in keeping with the reputation of the fellow they call "Sweet Feet" because of his deftness in handling the ball.
"He was trying to pass off to somebody at the back post," Mallia said. "But it went off a Cincinnati defender and then in. Definitely not typical Franklin McIntosh."
The game was stopped and a congratulatory message from NPSL commissioner Steve Paxos was read. The crowd was informed that McIntosh's initials would be painted on the carpet beyond the three-point line.
"I'm glad to get it out of the way," McIntosh said. "The league and the [Spirit] organization seemed more wrapped up in it than I was."
McIntosh, 32, in his eighth NPSL season, finished with a game-high 10 points to raise his career total to 1,005. For the season, he has 152, third in the league. He has scored at least 100 points for six straight seasons.
McIntosh's production helped the Spirit roll on. Since Mike Stankovic replaced Dave MacWilliams as coach, the Spirit has won eight of nine, its only loss by one point.
"The guys wanted to play," Stankovic said. "The defense kept us in it, but the offense played tremendously well, too. As a team, we played well for 60 minutes."
Defense has been the Spirit's hallmark during the resurgence. The club has outscored opponents, 148-80, allowing more than 10 points only three times in the nine games.
The team's final seven regular-season games will be on the road.
"It'll be tough, but we have to go through it and make things happen," Stankovic said. "I want to be .500 on the road, which is almost what we are now [6-7]."
What Stankovic doesn't want is a repeat of last season, when the Spirit dropped its last five and went into the playoffs with a defeatist complex.
"We've got to show we can win on the road," McIntosh said.
Opponent: Cleveland Crunch
Site: Cleveland State University Convocation Center
Radio: WWLG (1360 AM), WASA (1330 AM)
Outlook: For the Spirit, the game is the first of seven straight on the road ending the regular season. Cleveland has the second-highest home attendance (7,086) in the NPSL. The Crunch, the league's winningest team, has the top two scorers in Hector Marinaro and Zoran Karic.