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Spirit rests up for national '19' final


BLAINE, Minn. -- Yesterday was a day of sightseeing and relaxation in Minneapolis for the Baltimore Spirit. After Friday afternoon's grueling two-hour, 50-minute U.S. Youth Soccer National Championships boys under-19 semifinal victory, the Spirit needed time to recuperate.

Baltimore faces the Countryside Lightning of Clearwater, Fla., tonight at 9:30 in the 57th McGuire Cup final, a match that has been held continuously since 1935, except for three years (1942-44) during World War II.

The Spirit advanced by prevailing, 4-2, in a penalty-kick tiebreaker over the Salsa of Riverside, Calif., after the teams played to a 2-2 draw.

"This is the best team we've played," said Spirit sub Jeremy Baker, who assisted Mike Henning's goal on a diving header that tied the score at 2-2 in the 65th minute. "We knew when we got here it would be four teams that were equally good."

C.J. Norton, who played sensationally in goal in the second half and overtime, stopped two Salsa penalty kicks. Matt Nesbitt, J.J. Kremer, Bryan Bugarin (who netted the Spirit's first goal) and Shane Dougherty all blasted unstoppable kicks from the 12-yard penalty spot. Dougherty's ended the match, rendering unnecessary a fifth round.

Two other Baltimore sides have captured the McGuire Cup: the Pompei Juniors, who were declared co-champions in 1945, and the St. Elizabeth Soccer Club in 1973.

The only other area team to win the boys under-19 crown was the Columbia Jays in 1985.

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