MacWilliams' Kixx gives Spirit boot in OT, 10-8 First-year Philadelphia 6-1 as coach tops former team

November 23, 1996|By Doug Brown | Doug Brown,SUN STAFF

No sooner had Dave MacWilliams arrived in the visiting locker room at the Baltimore Arena than someone asked the Philadelphia Kixx coach how it felt to be back.

MacWilliams, who resigned as Spirit coach last January after 1 1/2 seasons, smiled and said, "So far, so good. Of course, I just got off the bus. Ask me again later."

There was no need to. MacWilliams had a delightful evening.

His expansion Kixx edged the Spirit, 10-8, on Don D'Ambra's goal 5: 45 into overtime last night before an Arena gathering of 3,237.

D'Ambra was guarded by Lance Johnson, who had fallen down, giving the Kixx's leading scorer a clear shot at Spirit goalie Cris Vaccaro. D'Ambra toe-poked the ball off Vaccaro's ankle, through his legs and into the goal.

It was a doubly costly play. Johnson strained a knee ligament and will miss two to four weeks.

"It boiled down to us not finishing chances," Spirit general manager Drew Forrester said. "In overtime, we had five, yet didn't score."

Clearly, the Kixx is for real. With a 6-1 record, Philadelphia leads the National Professional Soccer League's East Division. The Spirit is third with a 3-4 mark.

After a scoreless first half, the teams rang up eight points in the first 6 1/2 minutes of the third quarter. Peter Vermes slipped one past Vaccaro 35 seconds into the period for a 2-0 lead.

The Spirit then ran off six straight points on two-point goals by Bobby Joe Esposito, Jason Dieter on a dandy header and Sasa Zoric. To celebrate, Zoric did the Nigerian Crawl with fellow Yugoslavs Nesko Milovanovic and Bo Vuckovic, as all three got on their knees and crawled.

Philadelphia answered with six straight points, including two goals by ex-Spirit Joey Murtagh, for an 8-6 edge. Doug Neely's goal with 3: 04 left tied it and forced overtime.

"That could have been the momentum-breaker," MacWilliams said. "But our guys kept their chins up and came back."

The scoreless first half for both teams was the first in the Spirit's five-year history. The only other time the Spirit failed to score in the first half was against the Buffalo Blizzard on Jan. 2, 1994, when it trailed, 6-0. The Spirit has held an opponent scoreless in a half several times, most recently the Cincinnati Silverbacks last March.

The Kixx opened in goal with rookie Pete Pappas, who has started all seven games and came in last night as the NPSL's fourth-rated goalie with a 10.78 points-against average.

"I can't say enough about Pete," MacWilliams said, noting that Pappas had 14 saves last night. "He has a bright future in this league. He has the quickest reactions for an indoor keeper that I've seen in a while."

NOTES: MacWilliams has four former Spirit players, including Kixx captain Omid Namazi, Clark Brisson, Murtagh and Gary Ross. The Spirit's Barry Stitz returned after missing four games with a sprained ankle. Vuckovic played despite a hyper-extended left elbow suffered last week against the Silverbacks. Branko Segota, Mike Henning and Ronnie Simmons sat out with knee injuries. Todd Hicks missed the game after spraining his ankle in practice Thursday. He was replaced on the active roster by Albert Oni.

Philadelphia 0 0 4 4 2 -- 10

Spirit ..... 0 0 6 2 0 -- 8

Pub Date: 11/23/96

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