It's Cris Vaccaro vs. Victor Nogueira. No. 1 vs. No. 2. A clash of goalies who once were traded for each other.
When the Spirit visits the Milwaukee Wave tonight, Vaccaro and Nogueira again will be at opposite ends of the floor.
How many times has it been? They have lost count.
Vaccaro, 35, has been in pro soccer since 1980, when he came out of the University of Baltimore. Nogueira, 34, born in Africa and now a U.S. citizen, entered pro soccer in this country in 1982.
Back in the summer of 1987, it wasn't Vaccaro against Nogueira but Vaccaro for Nogueira. The Chicago Sting of the old Major Indoor Soccer League traded Nogueira to the Cleveland Force for Vaccaro.
Nogueira recalls it this way: "After four years, I was tired of Chicago. There was a coaching change, but we were still losing. I demanded to be traded, hoping to go to a winning team. I was always asking the new coach [Eric Geyer] to try to trade me."
Vaccaro: "Cleveland wanted a goalie who was better with his feet, which Victor was. I was surprised by the trade, but felt good afterward. With Chicago, I made the All-Star team for the first time."
Chuck Murr, then a Cleveland Plain Dealer soccer writer and now a Cleveland Crunch official, regarded the trade as part of a Cleveland Force shake-up.
"The Force kept reaching the division finals, but always was turned back by Baltimore or Dallas," Murr said. "The club wanted to make changes and little by little they traded the pieces away."
Today, Vaccaro and Nogueira are the NPSL's No. 1- and No. 2-rated goalies, with goals-against averages of 11.51 and 12.01, respectively. Vaccaro is the third in a 14-year line of Baltimore goalies, preceded by Keith Van Eron and Scott Manning.
"You win nothing without good goalkeeping," Spirit coach Kenny Cooper said. "Van Eron was brilliant in the 1982 playoffs against Pittsburgh and Manning was great in the 1984 final against St. Louis. Now it's Cris' turn."
Vaccaro and Nogueira have contrasting styles. Vaccaro is blessed with quick hands, and uses them, and Nogueira plays more like a hockey goalie, cutting off the angles and letting the ball hit him.
"Both are offensive goalies," said Milwaukee coach Keith Tozer, noting Vaccaro's league-record five goals and Nogueira's six assists. "Cris has more points  than some of my rookies.
"Cris and Victor are the first guys on the counterattack. If they weren't part of the offense, they'd get bored. It's their mentality, their ego, maybe. They're like Michael Jordan, because when they come up throwing they know where every man on the field is."