Early bird tickets for Baltimore’s BEST party on sale now!

With Vaccaro sitting out, Hartlove to step into goal


Spirit goalie Cris Vaccaro is going to get one of his rare nights off.

The National Professional Soccer League's top-rated goalie will be pardoned from tomorrow night's road game against the Canton Invaders. He has started 19 of the Spirit's 21 games.

Noting that the club is in the middle of a four-games-in-eight-nights stretch, three on the road, coach Kenny Cooper said, "We don't want to burn Cris out. We have two young guys ready and deserving of a start."

Shawn Boehmcke, a rookie out of Loyola College, started the two games that Vaccaro didn't, but it will be Brian Hartlove's turn tomorrow night.

"Brian had injuries early in the season, and Shawn took advantage of it," Cooper said. "Then Brian got healthy and Shawn got a turf toe. We want to give both an opportunity."

Vaccaro, 35, had a season-high 26 saves in Saturday's road win over the St. Louis Ambush. His record in St. Louis is 2-0, including a career- high 29 last season.

The Spirit has a 7-0 grip on Canton (including three road wins), in part because the Invaders have an even smaller field than the Baltimore Arena.

"Ours and Canton's are the smallest in the league," Cooper said. "That's why we do so well at home [13-1] because some teams are intimidated here. Canton is like a home away from home.

"In three games there, we were down 11-1 once and 9-1 another time. Canton tends to come out flying, while the other team is trying to get its legs. The key is not to panic when you fall behind there."

Paul who?

If the Spirit had failed to win last weekend's games against the Kansas City Attack and St. Louis, Cooper feared it would create the perception the team couldn't win without Paul Wright.

Wright, the team's leading scorer, missed the games when he was recalled by his outdoor club, the Los Angeles Salsa, for a game in El Salvador. The Salsa lost, 1-0.

Wright is scheduled to rejoin the Spirit for tomorrow night's game. After Friday night's away game against the Buffalo Blizzard, Wright will fly to Los Angeles for another Salsa game against El Salvador and return without missing any more Spirit activity.

"To win without Paul is the sign of a quality team that adjusts and adapts," Cooper said.

Stankovic returns with bang

In his two games since being activated, assistant coach Mike Stankovic, 37, has two assists and two goals. It is a more dramatic return than last season's when he had a goal and three assists in four games in March -- 15 months after major surgery on his right knee.

"Mike had some hesitancy last year," Cooper said. "He didn't shoot with his right foot, and teams quickly saw that. In St. Louis Saturday, both goals were right-footed."


In the St. Louis game, Ricky Bush, a rookie out of Towson State, got his first Spirit point, an assist on Clark Brisson's goal. . . . St. Louis' Steve Maurer was named NPSL Player of the Week after collecting seven goals and an assist in two games. The Milwaukee Wave's Victor Nogueira, the league's second-rated goalie behind Vaccaro, was Player of the Month after going 7-2 and lowering his goals-against average from 12.28 to 11.83. . . . The Spirit defense held scoring leaders Jon Parry (Kansas City) and David Doyle (St. Louis) to two points apiece. . . . At 18-3, the Spirit is on pace to register the second-best record (34-6) in NPSL history behind Canton's 36-4 in 1989-90. . . . The Spirit is 0-4 in Buffalo. . . . With a 5,839 home attendance average, the Spirit is 21 behind the fifth-place Cleveland Crunch (5,860).

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad