HARRISBURG, Pa. -- The Spirit's battle with the Harrisburg Heat for home advantage in the playoffs apparently will go down to the wire.
The Heat defeated the Spirit, 19-15, last night before 6,863 at the State Farm Show Arena to move within a half-game of second-place Baltimore in the National Professional Soccer League's American Division.
The Spirit has three games left, Harrisburg four. The Heat still could overtake the Spirit and gain home advantage in the division semifinals.
Harrisburg's win knotted the season series at three and ended its three-game losing streak against the Spirit. It was the Spirit's fourth straight defeat on the road.
"You can't give up 19 points and expect to win," Spirit coach Dave MacWilliams said. "It was a big loss for us. I'm disappointed. It's no secret we'll meet Harrisburg in the playoffs. We're jockeying for position. Each team wanted to go into the playoffs with a win."
The Heat offset four goals by the Spirit's Kevin Sloan with four three-point goals, two by Tom Bialek and one each by Richard Chinapoo and Bob Lilley.
"If we had finished our chances, we would have put the game out of reach early," the Spirit's Franklin McIntosh said. "I'm not saying they were lucky, but how many games do you see when a team has four three-pointers?"
"That was the game in a nutshell," said Spirit goalie Cris Vaccaro.
The Heat came from behind in the third quarter, wiping out a one-point Baltimore halftime lead, and entered the final period with a 16-13 lead thanks in part to Chinapoo's three-pointer with 47 seconds left in the third.
After only one three-pointer all season, Bialek got two in one half, helping the Heat to an 8-6 lead early in the second quarter.
Sloan was even hotter. His first goal raised his season's point total to 148, breaking the club record of 146 set last year by Paul Wright. By night's end, Sloan had 154 points.
His third goal goal tied the score at 8 and gave him his eighth hat trick of the season. His fourth two-pointer, increasing his club-record total to 69, brought the Spirit within 11-10 after Lilley's three-pointer.
Jon Parry's goal with 1:12 left in the second period gave the Spirit a 12-10 halftime advantage.
NOTES: Vaccaro has a 9-9 record, including 3-2 against Harrisburg. . . . The Spirit's Michael Brady (pulled groin) and Ricky Bush (broken cheekbone) missed the game. Tim Wittman played despite calf, back and toe injuries. . . . Harrisburg D Jason Neidell sat out with a bad knee. . . . Led by Sloan, the Spirit is the only team in the league with six 70-plus-points scorers. . . . Ex-Heat star McIntosh has topped 100 points for the fifth straight season, despite playing in only 24 games. . . . In the first half, ex-Spirit D Steve Boardman, traded with Tarik Walker by the Spirit for McIntosh, became the 12th NPSL player to reach 400 blocks (Lilley was the 11th). . . . Walker is seventh in scoring on the Heat. . . . Last night's game was the first of three in three nights for Harrisburg. The Heat will face the St. Louis Ambush tonight and the Cleveland Crunch tomorrow. . . . The Spirit gets a day's respite before facing St. Louis tomorrow night at the Baltimore Arena.
Baltimore .4 8 1 2 -- 15
Harrisburg 5 6 5 3 -- 19
First period -- 1. Harrisburg, Pulisic 2 pt. (Kelly), :23. 2. Baltimore, Stitz 2 pt. (Christie), 4:25. 3. Harrisburg, Bialek 3 pt. (unassisted), 6:12. 4. Baltimore, Sloan 2 pt. (Wittman), 14:31. Penalties -- None.
Second period -- 5. Baltimore, Sloan 2 pt. (Wittman), 14:31. 6. Baltimore, Sloan 2 pt. (McIntosh), 5:39. 7. Harrisburg, Bialek (Walker), 5:49. 8. Baltimore, Sloan 2 pt. (Stankovic), 10:03. 9. Harrisburg, Lilley 3 pt. (Bascome), 9:33. 10. Baltimore, Sloan 2 pt. (Parry). 11. Baltimore, Parry 2 pt. (McIntosh), 9:44. Penalties -- Bialek, Har (holding), 1:04. Namazi, Bal (unsportsmanlike conduct), 14:01. Pulisic, Har (unsportsmanlike conduct), 14:01. McIntosh, Bal (unsportsmanlike conduct), 15 :00. Pollihan, Har (unsportsmanlike conduct), 15:00.
Third period -- 12. Baltimore, Stitz 1 pt. (Stankovic), pp, 11:40. 13. Harrisburg, Bascome 2 pt. (Pulisic), 12:59. 14. Harrisburg, Chinapoo 3 pt. (Bialek), 14:13. Penalties -- Walker, Har (charging), 11:35.
Fourth period -- 15. Harrisburg, Kelly 1 pt. shootout, 2:54. 16. Baltimore, McIntosh 2 pt. (unassisted), 5:42. 17. Harrisburg, Walker 2 pt. (Bascome), 8:59. Penalties -- Namazi, Bal (holding), 2:54. Johnson, Bal (charging), 11:07.
Shots on goal -- Baltimore 11-16-8-9--44. Harrisburg 10-4-7-11--32. Goalies -- Baltimore, Vaccaro (32 shots, 13 saves); Sloan (0 shots, 0 saves) Harrisburg - Stanisic (44 shots, 22 saves). A -- 6,863.