Spirit falls to Heat despite newcomers' efforts Loss of last year's scorers contributes to 16-13 loss

November 10, 1996|By Doug Brown | Doug Brown,SUN STAFF

HARRISBURG, Pa. -- The Spirit has some new offensive weapons after all.

Branko Segota, acquired before the season, returned to the lineup from a sprained ankle and scored the 511th and 512th goals of his indoor career.

Bo Vuckovic, acquired last week from the Tampa Bay Terror, contributed a goal and an assist.

Another newcomer, Doug Neely -- a defender, no less -- added two goals, including a three-pointer.

But the Spirit (2-3) showed the effect of losing five of its top seven scorers from last season, bowing to the Harrisburg Heat, 16-13, last night before 5,524 at the State Farm Show Arena.

"We created some unbelievably good chances, but didn't finish them," player-coach Mike Stankovic said. "We also gave up five or six free kicks to them, and you can't win when you do that."

It was the first Baltimore-Harrisburg meeting since the Spirit eliminated the Heat in the first round of the National Professional Soccer League playoffs last season.

David Bascome scored what proved to be the winning goal, giving Harrisburg a 14-13 edge with a two-pointer midway through the final period. With less than a minute remaining, Bill Becher sealed it with a two-pointer into an empty goal when the Spirit was employing Stankovic as a sixth attacker.

Trailing 9-3 at halftime, the Spirit outscored the Heat 7-2 in the third period to pull within 11-10. Baltimore scored five straight goals over one stretch, two by Segota and one each by Neely, Vuckovic and Bobby Joe Esposito.

Vuckovic trotted onto the field wearing jersey No. 13. Unlucky 13? He doesn't look at it that way. For one thing, his house number back in Yugoslavia was 13. For another, he hopes No. 13 will change his luck.

"I've had bad luck lately," Vuckovic said. "Like, I played last summer for the New England Revolution of Major League Soccer, sprained my knee and sat out 2 1/2 months. I figured my luck couldn't get any worse, so why not wear 13?"

Stankovic urged the Spirit to sign Vuckovic, hoping to bolster an offense that ranked third from last in the NPSL in scoring with 9.8 points a game. Vuckovic led Tampa Bay in scoring last year with 142 points.

"I don't want to put any pressure on him," Stankovic said. "I just want him to play his game. Of course we want him to score goals -- that's what we got him for -- but within the framework of the team. Our expectation is not that he's going to win the game for us all the time, just play as part of our system."

The Baltimore-Harrisburg rivalry now stands at 20-13 in favor of the Heat, including a 14-4 edge here.

"It's a great rivalry," Harrisburg coach Jim Pollihan said. "All the games are hard fought. Neither team gives an inch."

Domenic Mobilio, who rejoined the Heat last week from the Canadian national team, scored the first goal 1: 21 into the game. Spirit rookie Todd Hicks, a former Towson State star, tied it with the first goal of his NPSL career, but the Heat ran off the next seven points.

Harrisburg's Doug Petras, who had 21 saves in an 18-9 win over the Tampa Bay Terror in his previous start, again opened in goal in place of Scoop Stanisic, who strained his knee in the second game of the season. Again he was strong, making 19 saves despite injuring a finger in the first quarter.

"We're all comfortable with Doug," said Pollihan. "We lost him in the NPSL expansion draft two years ago and bought him back [from Edmonton] before this season."

"He's not an All-Star yet like Scoop," Pollihan said. "But he has the ability to be one."

Pub Date: 11/10/96

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