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Spirit loses 5th straight, 9-6


DETROIT -- Detroit's Joey Kirk left the Baltimore defense bickering and the Cobo Arena crowd of 7,123 on its feet last night, scoring four goals as the Rockers kept their NPSL playoff hopes alive with a 9-6 victory over the Spirit.

The loss is the fifth straight for Baltimore (23-17), which is fighting Harrisburg for home-field advantage in the NPSL playoffs.

Harrisburg needs to lose its regular-season finale today for Baltimore to play host to playoff games April 3 and 5 and play at Harrisburg April 4. Should the Heat finish second in the American Division, it would play at Baltimore April 3 and be the host April 4 and 5.

The win was the eighth straight for Detroit (18-22), which needs Wichita to lose its final game today to gain the final NPSL playoff spot.

"Actually it comes down to us believing in ourselves," said Kirk, who gave Detroit a 4-2 halftime lead with three second-quarter goals. His second power-play goal at 14:35 of the third quarter that gave the Rockers a 5-4 edge.

Baltimore's leading scorer, Kevin Sloan, gave the Spirit a 6-5 advantage, leading Jay White clean down the right side at 3:21 of the fourth quarter.

Detroit forward Dave Hoggan scored what proved to be the game-winner 1:02 later.

Detroit midfielder Sean Bowers added a goal when Sloan was on for the last 1:25 as the extra attacker.

"The goal that made it 7-6 was the one that really hurt," said Spirit coach Dave MacWilliams. "We just did stupid things at the end of the game. We had opportunities to score. We just couldn't finish. We couldn't put it away."

Baltimore, which swarmed the Detroit defense with 48 shots, had four penalties to Detroit's two, including a five-minute major misconduct to defender Lance Johnson in the second quarter and a major misconduct to Omid Namazi 42 seconds into the fourth quarter.

Sloan also scored on a shootout in the second quarter, pulling Baltimore to within 4-3, and midfielder Michael Brady tied the game with a power-play goal. Baltimore opened the game with a 2-0 first-quarter lead on a goal by Jon Parry.

Baltimore goalie Cris Vaccaro made 11 saves, and Detroit's Bryan Finnerty made 16.

Detroit took 26 shots.


The National Professional Soccer League has set playoff dates for the American Division semifinals between the Spirit and Harrisburg. The teams will open April 3 at the Baltimore Arena and will play April 4 in Harrisburg. If a third game is necessary, the site will be determined by the regular-season standings.

If the Spirit remains in second place when the regular season ends tonight, Game 3 will be at the Arena on April 6. If the Heat overtakes the Spirit for second place, Game 3 will be in Harrisburg on April 5. All of the playoff games will start at 7:05 nTC p.m., and tickets are on sale at the Arena box office, all Ticketmaster outlets or by calling (410) 481-SEAT.

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