Kixx deflates Spirit in OT, 21-19 Rally falls short in opener

Sloan scores game-winner

October 26, 1997|By Phil Jackman | Phil Jackman,SUN STAFF

PHILADELPHIA -- Good thing for the Spirit first impressions aren't all telling.

It ever a team appeared as if it was starting its season a tad early, it was the Spirit, as the Philadelphia Kixx charged out to a quick five-goal lead at the Spectrum last night.

Through grit, hustle and determination, however, the Spirit mounted a comeback. But it wasn't enough, as Kevin Sloan won it with his third goal after 9: 15 of overtime, giving Philadelphia a 21-19 victory.

"We showed great character coming back time after time," said Spirit coach Mike Stankovic. His team trailed by five points three times and four points another time.

"We had good parts and bad parts, that was no surprise," he said. On the plus side were "lots of energy and lots of hard work. But what it points out is that we have a lot of work to do."

A wild series of events set up the extra session, including a fight, a trip on a shootout that led to a two-point penalty shot followed by a one-point power-play tally by Philadelphia. None of that or the fact they lost star defenseman Ronnie Simmons temporarily to a rib injury seemed to faze the Spirit.

A late goal by Sasa Zoric tied the game , 19-19, as Baltimore outscored the home team, 5-3, in the fourth quarter.

Sloan's heroics gained him star of the game honors, but it was Matt Knowles who did in Baltimore. The ex-Cleveland Crunch All-Star defenseman had three goals and five assists, including a helping hand on the game-winning goal. Bo Vuckovic had three goals and two assists for the Spirit.

The Kixx came out as if it was already a sudden-death overtime and not a standard 60-minute contest. Sloan converted a close-in pass from Omid Namazi -- both ex-Baltimore players -- to put the Kixx on the board after just 24 seconds.

Three minutes later, Namazi set up Don D'Ambra for a two-pointer, and after missing a shootout try, Sloan had a power-play one-pointer.

After taking a 5-0 advantage in the first six minutes and a 9-4 lead midway through the second quarter, however, the Kixx suddenly let the Spirit back into the game.

Mike Henning got a Baltimore goal late in the first period, then Shane Dougherty, Chris Scotti and Zoric did likewise in the last 3: 30 of the second quarter to boost the Spirit into a 10-9 halftime lead.

Philadelphia was guilty of letting Zoric score the visitors' go-ahead goal with just three seconds remaining in the first half, but the Spirit also was lackadaisical by allowing the Kixx to score within the first minute in each of the first three quarters.

Knowles shot a three-pointer 49 seconds into the third quarter over Baltimore goalie Jim McCombs, who either didn't pick up the ball early enough or simply jumped too late.

Trailing 14-10 halfway through the third period, Vuckovic converted a two-point penalty kick and Dougherty followed with his second goal to even it at 14-14 before Namazi put Philadelphia ahead 16-14 at period's end.

Spirit ..... 2 8 4 5 0 -- 19

Philadelphia 5 4 7 3 2 -- 21

MLS Cup '97

Who: D.C. United vs. Colorado Rapids

When: 3: 30 p.m., today

Where: RFK Stadium, Washington

Tickets: None available

TV: chs. 2, 7

Pub Date: 10/26/97

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