Six of eight playoff teams set Buffalo, Harrisburg closing in

NPSL notebook

March 05, 1996|By Doug Brown | Doug Brown,SUN STAFF

The Spirit and five six other NPSL teams can begin selling playoff tickets. And the likely final two teams -- Buffalo and Harrisburg -- are a game away from clinching spots. Either a win by each team or a loss by the Cincinnati Silverbacks would send the Blizzard and Heat into the postseason.

The likely eighth and last playoff team, the Buffalo Blizzard, needs only a win or a Cincinnati Silverbacks loss to clinch.

With less than three weeks left in the regular season, all that remains to be settled is the exact finish, which will determine home-field advantage in the playoffs.

The only team assured of a home-field advantage in the first round is the Cleveland Crunch, which clinched its second

straight American Division title before dropping two to the Spirit over the weekend. Cleveland's 29-6 record is the best in the league.

If the playoffs started tomorrow, the second-place Spirit would face third-place Buffalo. But this could change, since Harrisburg is only a game behind Buffalo.

The National Division is set with the Kansas City Attack, Milwaukee Wave, defending champion St. Louis Ambush and Wichita Wings running 1-2-3-4. The fight is for the division championship as Kansas City leads Milwaukee by 1 1/2 games.

In the best-of-three first round, it's the first-place team against the fourth and the second vs. the third. The division finals are best of five and the league final is best of seven.

Attendance rising

The largest crowd of the season, 13,737, watched host Milwaukee defeat Buffalo on Sunday. A gathering of 11,987 in Cleveland saw the Spirit stun the Crunch in a rematch of Friday's game in Baltimore that attracted a Spirit-record 9,114. In Kansas City on Saturday night, the Wave and Attack drew 8,684.

The Spirit completed its home season with a 5,037 average, good for seventh in the 13-team NPSL. The club's remaining six games are on the road.

McIntosh saluted

Franklin McIntosh was named NPSL Player of the Week after collecting 20 points in three Spirit McIntosh victories. While he was at it, he became the first man in the NPSL's 12-year history to reach 1,000 points.

NPSL scoring leader Hector Marinaro of Cleveland is the Offensive Player of the Month after scoring 61. He had a three-point goal in every game, two game-winning goals, four hat tricks and twice scored the cycle (three-point goal, two-pointer, one-pointer and assist).

Milwaukee goalie Victor Nogueira is Defensive Player of the Month on the strength of an 8-0 record and 8.37 points-against average. The Spirit's Cris Vaccaro (4-0, 8.50) also had a strong month.

The Spirit's current eight-game winning streak is second only in club history to the 10 straight by the 1993-94 team at the start of that season. . . . The NPSL deadline for roster changes is 5 p.m. today, although a team can add a goalie if one of its regular keepers is hurt. The Spirit doesn't expect to make any changes. . . . The Spirit's Jason Maricle didn't play the second half of Sunday's win in Cleveland because of a strained hamstring, but is probable for Saturday's game in Harrisburg. Barry Stitz remains questionable with a slow-healing sprained ankle.

Pub Date: 3/05/96

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