9-game streak carries Crunch to top of East


Cleveland extended its winning streak to nine -- the longest in the Major Soccer League this season -- and climbed into first place at the same time last night, beating Kansas City 7-3.

The Crunch (21-19) vaulted past Kansas City (20-19) to the top of the Eastern Division. It was the fifth straight loss for the Comets; the Crunch has won 12 of its last 13.

During Cleveland's nine-game streak, Hector Marinaro has scored 17 goals, including two last night. He has 49 for the season. Michael King added two goals for the Crunch last night.

* A FAMILIAR FACE: John Kowalski is remembered by longtime MSL fans as the former coach of the Pittsburgh Spirit.

Now Kowalski, who has been coaching the soccer team at Robert Morris University and the U.S. indoor team, replaces U.S. National Team coach Bob Gansler on an interim basis.

In five seasons in the MSL he had a .522 winning percentage, 119-109.

* WELL DRESSED: Goalkeepers can again wear the jerseys of their choice during MSL games. Arbitrator George Nicolau, after nearly a month of deliberation, said that while the league has a contract with BIKE to make its uniforms, "there is precedence" to allow goalkeepers to wear the shirts of their choice.

A number of goalkeepers in the MSL have long-standing promotional deals with companies that manufacture soccer apparel. Nicolau said their right to wear the gear of their choice could not be taken away without negotiation.

* PLAYOFF TEAMS SET? With six weeks to go in the season, it is almost certain the playoff teams in the Western and Eastern divisions are set, barring catastrophe.

Kansas City, Cleveland and Baltimore should make it in the East. Wichita, 16-25 after yesterday's 10-8 victory over Dallas, is six games back and would have to go 11-1, with the Blast playing .500 the rest of the way, for Wichita to beat out the Blast for the final spot.

In the West, it's San Diego, St. Louis and Tacoma. Dallas (14-25) is out of the picture, 10 1/2 games back.

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