No letdown, no letup: Spirit rips Stars, 24-6 Vukovic gets Baltimore started in 7-2 first period

March 03, 1997|By Dan Hickling | Dan Hickling,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- It would have been tempting for the Spirit to take yesterday afternoon off, against the feeble Toronto Shooting Stars.

At 5-28, the Stars have the worst record in the league, with 11 of their losses reaching double-digit margins.

But any danger of a letdown disappeared Saturday when Baltimore dropped its crucial showdown with Harrisburg for the East Division lead.

Any question of a letdown vanished in the first 26 seconds, wiped away by the right foot of Bo Vukovic. He lofted in a shot from beyond the yellow line to begin a Spirit scoring spree that ended in a 24-6 rout, before 2,857 spectators at the Rochester War Memorial.

"We weren't as sharp as we needed to be [Saturday]," Vukovic said. "We talked about it afterward. We had to step it up tonight."

The Stars, who have been hampered by fan apathy in Toronto, shifted three of their games here. Rochester is testing the marketfor a National Professional Soccer League team of its own, which could begin play next year.

Based on what the "home team" gave it, the selling job will be a hard one.

Baltimore had a 7-2 lead after the first period, which it boosted by four before the half.

Vukovic caught Toronto goalie Carmine Isacco unprepared, when he moved in alone from midfield, then rocketed an arcing right-footer that dipped under the crossbar. It appeared that Isacco thought the shot was going high, because he barely moved to stop it.

"I don't know what happened, if the goalie wasn't ready or what," said Vukovic. "But Branko [Segota] got me the ball and I saw that I had a chance to shoot."

The Stars put some pressure on Baltimore goalie Joe Mallia (17 stops), whose diving save thwarted Toronto attacker Milo Backo's dangerous blast through a screen in front at 5: 05. Four minutes later, Mallia made another important save when he left his crease to strip the ball from Noel Haddad, who had a breakaway.

But Mallia had it easy the rest of the way, as Toronto failed to put up a fight after that.

"We didn't play with any life," said Stars coach Art Kramer. "We stood around and watched."

Segota made it 5-0 at 11: 52, after he sneaked to the left post behind the Stars' defense. Teammate Lance Johnson brought the ball down right wing, drawing the attention to him, then threaded a perfect pass to Segota, who put away an easy tap-in.

A minute later, Segota hooked a pass up to Sasa Zoric, who was met by Isacco outside the box. Isacco picked up a hand-ball penalty, which ended up costing the Stars a pair of one-pointers by Zoric and Vukovic.

"We did exactly what we couldn't afford to do," said Kramer. "We let them get away from us early. With their great scorers, they'll kill us."

The dismantling continued into the third period, when Jimmy Glenn and Jason Dieter each scored twice to increase the lead to 19-4. Glenn polished off a beautiful pass from Shane Dougherty to make it 13-2 at 4: 31. Then he scored his second of the period (fourth of the game) at 11: 12, and Dieter followed that up just 14 seconds later. Vukovic added another three-pointer in the fourth period.

(NPSL standings, 9C)

Pub Date: 3/03/97

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