DAYTON, Ohio -- Playing the Dayton Dynamo in its glass case is hard for teams with fresh legs. But coming into the second-smallest and oddest arena in the National Professional Soccer League with dead legs is harder.
The Dynamo gave the Spirit its worst loss of the season, 24-11, last night before 3,475 fans at the 4,600-seat Dayton Convention Center.
The Spirit's worst previous loss was 14-2, Jan. 2 at Buffalo.
"Coming into this place is like going into the Twilight Zone," Spirit coach Kenny Cooper said. "It's a small, narrow field to start with. Dayton has that running style suited to the field where they always seem to be in a frenzy.
"With the glass all around, it's very hard to get used to," Cooper said. "You really have to make use of your chances or you're in trouble. We were OK in the first half, but they have a young squad that just keeps running and running. The second half, the three games in three days caught up with us."
The Spirit was coming off big home wins over the Wichita Wings on Friday (22-10) and St. Louis Ambush on Saturday (19-8). Yesterday, the team's plane was three hours late, putting it here only three hours before game time.
"We knew we'd have to really play well to steal one in this place, anyway," Cooper said. "I just look at it as two big wins against two of the best teams in the league and getting a good workout against a team fighting to survive in the playoff picture."
Dayton is 11-21 and in last place in the American Division of the NPSL, 13 1/2 games behind the Spirit. It has slim hopes of making the playoffs, trailing fourth-place Canton by 3 1/2 games.
Dayton, which has scored 20 points or more at home seven times this season, jumped out to a 2-0 lead on Brad Smith's goal 3:53 into the match. Jason Dieter got the Spirit even at 5:03 with the assist going to Rusty Troy.
Dayton scored the next six points. Two goals came on rebounds off Spirit goalie Brian Hartlove, and the other came when a shot by Smith deflected off Lance Johnson into the Spirit goal.
Rob Ukrop scored twice to make it 8-6 at halftime.
But in the final two periods, Dayton was able to keep up its go-go style. The Spirit couldn't keep up.
The next two games for the Spirit are also on the road -- Friday in Wichita and Saturday in Harrisburg.