Nothing the Wichita Wings did last night surprised the Spirit. Everyone on the host team's roster knew the Wings' game was defense.
Wichita came into the game with the top-rated goalie in the National Professional Soccer League in Chris Damico and with the lowest points-against average (9.0) in the league.
The Wings also led the NPSL in fewest shots allowed (20.8) and PTC had held five of their eight opponents to 10 or fewer points.
But the NPSL's best defense allowed one goal too many last night. Barry Stitz's goal with 17 seconds remaining gave the Spirit a 12-10 victory at the Baltimore Arena before 2,618, the club's smallest crowd of the season.
With overtime seconds away, the Spirit peppered Damico with shots -- one by Bo Vuckovic and then one by Stitz. The ball came right back to Stitz, and this time he put it away.
"I was shooting, but I knew if I missed the ball would go to the top of the box and someone else might get it," Vuckovic said. "Barry was in the right place at the right time."
Said Stitz: "I wasn't aware of how much time was left. I saw that Bo had the keeper beat, but his shot hit the post and came to me. I missed the first one, but luckily I was able to follow up my own shot."
The win ended Wichita's winning streak at three and evened the Spirit's record at 5-5.
With 3: 44 gone in the fourth quarter, the Spirit tied it at 10 on Nesko Milovanic's two-pointer. The rookie from Yugoslavia observed his now-familiar custom of taking off his shirt and throwing it into the crowd.
Looking for new and better combinations, coach Mike Stankovic made some positional changes for the game.
Defender Jason Dieter, who scored the Spirit's lone two goals last week against the Kansas City Attack, played forward. Doug Neely moved up from defender to midfielder and midfielder Sasa Zoric dropped back to defense.
"We could make these changes because Lance and Ronnie came back," Stankovic said, referring to defenders Lance Johnson and Ronnie Simmons, who played for the first time since recovering from knee injuries.
"It's a good time to switch things around and see how they work. Some of these guys are versatile, anyway."
To an extent, the changes did work. Dieter again had two goals and Neely had three assists, raising his total to nine.
In an attempt to spread the goalkeeping duties, and noting that Cris Vaccaro has the flu, Stankovic started Jim McCombs. It was his third start; Vaccaro has five, Joe Mallia two.
Opponent: Milwaukee Wave
Site: Baltimore Arena
Radio: Updates after each quarter on WWLG (1360 AM)
Outlook: The first 3,000 youngsters under 16 will receive "Do the Spirit" T-shirts. If they bring four All-Sport bottle caps, they will get a free ticket to the Jan. 12 game against the Tampa Bay Terror. Michael King, once of the Spirit, is one of Milwaukee's leading scorers. Victor Nogueira is the NPSL's No. 3-ranked goalie with a 9.42 points-against average. The Spirit leads the series with Milwaukee, 7-3, despite dropping both games last season.