The final steps to the 300-win plateau have been agonizingly slow for the Canton Invaders.
Canton, which has won five National Professional Soccer League championships, entered this season with 297 victories, high in the 12-year-old league.
But these are not the Invaders of old. They won their last championship in 1990 and last year squeezed out only six victories, tying the Chicago Power for fewest in the NPSL.
Now, after beating Kenny Cooper's expansion team, the Tampa Bay Terror, and the Cincinnati Silverbacks, formerly the Dayton Dynamo, Canton is at 299. Beaten twice last weekend, the Invaders will try again to become the first to reach 300 when they visit the Buffalo Blizzard Friday.
Beating Tampa Bay and Cincinnati is no great feat. The Terror is 0-3 and the Silverbacks 0-2 after losing Saturday to the Cleveland Crunch, which is 4-0 but was without most of its guns -- Hector Marinaro, Zoran Karic, Andy Schmetzer and Henri Guitierrez, all injured.
Even before a large crowd (8,623) for their home debut, the Silverbacks still couldn't pull it off against the weakened Crunch.
Parry spurns Terror
Jon Parry, the Spirit's No. 2 scorer last season who was put into the NPSL expansion draft because he didn't want to play here another year, pulled a fast one on his new team.
Cooper drafted him for Tampa Bay, based on Parry's claim that he wanted to play there. Parry agreed on a contract, but never reported and the next thing Cooper knew, he was with the Sacramento Knights of the Continental Indoor Soccer League.
"That," Cooper said, "was a major setback."
"He told me he didn't like the fans in Baltimore, plus some other things," Spirit vice president Drew Forrester said. "He said the only city where he'd play was Tampa; then he pulls a trick like this. Jon has a lot of growing up to do."
In winning its first three games, the Spirit has displayed well-balanced scoring. Four players are in double figures. Everyone except seldom-used Peter Schneiders and Jamie Christie has scored at least one point. The goalie, Joe Mallia, has three assists.
Franklin McIntosh, second to Marinaro in the NPSL with 19 points, and Kevin Sloan, Bobby Joe Esposito and Zak Ibsen have scored in every game. Lance Johnson, Mike Stankovic, David Vaudreuil and Ronald Simmons -- all defenders -- have scored in two of the three.
"This was one of our objectives in the off-season, to add scoring threats in the back," Forrester said.
Detroit Rockers midfielder/coach Pato Margetic is the NPSL Player of the Week on the strength of four goals and an assist in the 21-14 win over the Kansas City Attack. Margetic is the league's all-time assists leader with 344; McIntosh is next with 315.