Spirit springs 13-4 setback on Impact for 2nd road win Dougherty scores first 2

slim playoff hopes alive

March 16, 1998|By Dan Hickling | Dan Hickling,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

MONTREAL -- It's been a hard road for the Spirit this year, almost cruel, considering the 1-17 away mark they took into the Molson Centre yesterday.

One more loss might hardly be noticed except that it would douse their barely flickering playoff hopes.

The Spirit (11-26) responded to the dire circumstances with a 13-4 win over the Montreal Impact before 5,126.

"I don't know if it was the biggest win of the year for us," said midfielder Shane Dougherty, who scored the first two Spirit goals, "but it was definitely huge."

Coupled with a loss earlier in the day by Cincinnati, current holder of the final American Conference postseason berth, the Spirit must win its last three games and hope that the Silverbacks drop their remaining five.

"We're looking at them every game," said Spirit midfielder Matt Tirschman. "Even though it's a slim chance, we just keep on fighting. It gives us reason to believe."

Tirschman scored the game's pivotal goal, a three-pointer, at 10: 36 of the third quarter, increasing the Spirit's lead to 9-4.

It happened as Impact backfielder Rudy Doliscat nonchalantly brought the ball out of his end with goaltender Pat Harrington near the right boards.

Materializing from nowhere, Tirschman picked Doliscat's pocket, then sent the ball into the wide-open net.

"My first objective was to not let him get by me," Tirschman said. "And then I just took a stab at it. If he beats me there, I can still get back. If I get it, great, it's a goal."

Said Montreal coach Paul Kitson, a former Blast player whose team is 8-4 since his Feb. 12 takeover and 14-22 overall. "Mental mistakes hurt us all day, and that one was the back-breaker."

It diffused all the steam generated by the Impact, which outshot the Spirit 49-28, but was continually bedeviled by goaltender Khalil Azmi.

The veteran was stingy in helping the Spirit to its first win away from the Baltimore Arena since Feb. 8 at Detroit. Azmi allowed just a two-pointer by Marcelo Fontana and two single scores by Eloy Salgado.

Azmi's most critical save of all may have been his leaper just before the first-half whistle to stop Doliscat, whose blast from outside the arc would have lifted the Impact into a 6-6 tie.

The Spirit had a 2-0 lead after the first period and made it 6-1 with 3: 05 left in the half.

Dougherty scored both of his goals from 25 feet. The first came with 3: 30 left in the first period, with an assist by Barry Stitz, who had passed up an open shot to send it back to Dougherty.

Bo Vukovic got the eventual game-winner late in the half, and after Tirschman's opportunistic score, Sasa Zoric scored twice to close the scoring.

Pub Date: 3/16/98

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