It really didn't matter if former Baltimore indoor soccer coach Kenny Cooper was kidding or not when he said he couldn't wait for his Tampa Bay Terror to oppose the Baltimore Spirit last night.
Almost from the moment the referee signaled the start of the game, the Spirit was all over the visitors. It was 4-0 at the quarter, 12-0 at the half and 14-0 after three periods before the Terror broke through.
After being blanked for a little more than 50 minutes, Joey Murtaugh scored for the expansion Terror, small consolation in a loss witnessed with great glee by 7,727 partisans.
The effervescent Cooper had said something about kicking the living daylights out of Baltimore. He had to be joshing because Tampa Bay arrived in town riding a four-game losing streak and )) fell to 7-21 overall.
Meanwhile, Baltimore is 16-12 and still breathing fire since Mike Stankovic took over as coach and installed an aggressive defense.
"A good defense can give you a lot of offense, just like it does in basketball, and that's where a lot of our points came from tonight," Stankovic said.
"We've moved to a style where we want to stop the long ball deep into our zone and we're taking on the offense with our guys across the [field] on line.
"We make a stop and we're no longer passive but ready to jump ahead and be active. We gave up too many points before; I was sick of playing from behind."
A pair of pretty goals got the Spirit off smartly in the first 15 minutes. Both started in the back where, first, Stankovic broke up a Terror attack at his 45-foot arc and took off on a foray that saw him fake goalie Bill Andracki off his feet and flip the ball over onto his left foot for the touch-in.
Late in the period, Jason Maricle short-circuited a 4-on-2 break by the visitors and nudged the ball ahead to a breaking Jason Dieter, who did the rest. Dieter has scored in three of the four games since Stankovic moved him up to the attack from defense.
It was only 4-0, but the floodgates were open. Lance Johnson scored for the Spirit just 47 seconds into the second period. Three scores later, Baltimore left for intermission with a 12-0 lead, the first time the team had shut out the opposition through the first half this season.
"This after we had a terrific week of practice," said Cooper with a sigh. "We're a young team and we're constantly preaching that we have to keep our shape and balance."
Here's the type defense the Spirit put up: Goalie Joe Mallia was called for holding and not only did Tampa Bay get a power play, it also was awarded a penalty kick.
Bojan Vuckovic took the shot for the Terror, but backup goalie Jim McCombs, making his first appearance for the Spirit, thwarted the attempt. Then, on the power play, Baltimore applied all the pressure before Omid Namazi tallied the home team's sixth goal.
NOTE: Franklin McIntosh picked up assists on three of Baltimore's first seven goals, giving him a club-record 60 for the season.