Spirit blows 10-point lead, Wave crests in OT Milwaukee clinches title in comeback 14-12 victory

March 01, 1998|By Charles Gardner | Charles Gardner,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

MILWAUKEE -- The Spirit had to know it was too good to be true.

After jumping out to a 10-point halftime lead on the National Professional Soccer League's hottest team, the Spirit allowed the Milwaukee Wave to shut it out in the second half while falling victim to 12 unanswered points. The result was a 14-12 overtime loss for Baltimore, before a crowd of 10,509.

The Milwaukee win, which came in the first Saturday night game ever in the Bradley Center, increased the Wave's winning streak to 10 games while clinching the Central Division crown with a 22-9 record.

The Spirit, on the other hand, remain stuck with just one road win this season while dropping to 10-24.

After being dominated in the first half, Milwaukee mounted a comeback from a 12-2 deficit that was culminated by Steve Morris' goal with just 4.8 seconds remaining in regulation, sending the game into overtime.

In the extra frame, the Wave completed its dismantling of the Spirit with a Michael King goal coming 2: 41 into overtime.

"The emotion overwhelmed Baltimore," said King, whose team still trailed by eight points after three quarters. "[The Spirit] had chances to put the game away. They were like a dog in a trap, fighting and scrapping the whole time."

The ending was a far cry from the way the game started, as the Spirit jumped all over the Wave with an 8-2 first quarter. Leading the charge was Bo Vuckovic, who assisted on Baltimore's first two goals and scored its third.

After Denison Cabral got things going for the Spirit with a goal at 2: 10, the Wave tied it for the first time with its only score of the first half, coming on a Chris Jahr header, just 18 seconds later.

From there it was all Baltimore for the rest of the half as Mike Henning proceeded to give the visitors the lead with his 11th goal of the season.

The midfielder's efforts were quickly followed at 8: 09 when Vuckovic blasted the Spirit's third goal of the game past goaltender Victor Nogueira. All that was left in the opening quarter was a Todd Hicks goal, coming off a scramble in front of the Milwaukee net, at 12: 13.

After Baltimore had claimed the six-point lead, Spirit coach Mike Stankovic elected to pull starting goalie Jim McCombs while he was ahead, going with Khalil Azmi the rest of the way.

Besides the Spirit's goalie switch, nothing much changed in the second quarter as Baltimore continued to keep the pressure on Nogueira with two more goals, by Sasa Zoric and Shane Dougherty.

First Zoric collected a pass off the boards and proceeded to beat the Wave's goalie, at 3: 50. Dougherty then capped the scoring in the half by taking a back-heel pass from Cabral and sending a left-footer into the net at the 8: 51 mark to make it 12-2 at the intermission.

Pub Date: 3/01/98

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