Home is still a place for winning Spirit SOCCER


The Spirit's winning touch at the Baltimore Arena appears to be carrying over into the new season.

In opening its second National Professional Soccer League season Friday night at the Arena, the Spirit defeated the Chicago Power, 13-8. And when it plays the Canton Invaders Saturday at 7:05 p.m. at the Arena, the Spirit will be supported by strong numbers.

The team hasn't lost a regular-season home game since Jan. 23, when it was defeated, 15-6, by the Wichita Wings. In its first year in the league, the Spirit had a 18-2 regular-season record at the Arena.

Now the Spirit acts as if it has something similar in mind for this season.

"It builds confidence, going 18-2 here like we did last season," coach Kenny Cooper said. "It instilled confidence in the players that they can figure a way to win at home."

The Spirit, however, was not that impressive against the Power. The Spirit trailed at one point, 6-5, in the third quarter, and only a court-length heave by goalie Cris Vaccaro into an open Chicago net for two points with five seconds left made the score appear decisive.

"At times we played 100 miles an hour, which is bad," Tim Wittman said. "We were just physical, running around with our heads cut off.

"But there were good signs. When we needed a goal, we got it. We've got to settle down and get to know each other's strengths and weaknesses."

Except for Vaccaro's goal, all the points were by Spirit newcomers -- Paul Wright (seven) and Dan O'Keefe and Rob Ukrop with two apiece.

"Paul did what was expected of him, score big goals," said Vaccaro, 35, who opened his 14th pro indoor season with an 11-save performance. "It was a fast-paced game."

Goran Hunjak and Rusty Troy, last season's scoring leaders with a combined 257 points, got only one point, an assist by Hunjak.

"We have a lot to work on," Cooper said. "We held the ball too much and had too many turnovers. Chicago is a difficult team to play against. They have a lot of experience and are a good passing team. We knew we'd been in a game."

Cooper hopes to take advantage of the early schedule, which includes nine home games in 14 games through Dec. 31.

"A season is like a journey," Cooper said. "The idea is to make progress as you go along."

Copyright © 2021, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad