CINCINNATI -- The Spirit faced one of the National Professional Soccer League's hottest goalkeepers yesterday, and the result was frustration.
Cincinnati Silverbacks keeper Carlos Pena made 17 saves and allowed just three Spirit goals as his team won, 9-6, before 1,826 at Cincinnati Gardens.
The Spirit (8-8) lost despite outshooting Cincinnati (7-10) by 30-19.
"It's tough to go up against a hot goalkeeper like that who is on his game," said Spirit coach Mike Stankovic. "He made some incredible saves against us, and it's hard to beat a guy like that."
The loss was the second in a row for the Spirit, which dropped out of a tie with Philadelphia for first place in the NPSL's East Division with a 17-11 loss to the Kixx on Friday night.
The victory was the Silverbacks' fourth in their past six games and was payback for a 13-12 loss to the Spirit on Nov. 16.
It marked the eighth time this season that Cincinnati's defense ,, has held the opposition under 10 points. The Silverbacks have allowed 20 or more only three times this season, including twice to the defending champion Cleveland Crunch.
"In the last four to five games, defensively we have been playing outstanding as a team," Cincinnati coach George Fernandez said. "We're giving up 10 points a game, and those games we should win each time. This was another quality win for us."
Cincinnati scored first against Spirit keeper Jim McCombs when defender Danny Pena took a centering pass from Brad Smith and found the net 35 seconds into the game.
The Spirit's Bo Vuckovic tied the game at 2 late in the first period, but Cincinnati scored a pair of goals in the second while keeping the Spirit scoreless.
Former Spirit star Franklin McIntosh put the Silverbacks up 8-2 at 2: 54 of the third period, but the visitors fought back to within 8-6 after Josh Houle and Jamie Christie scored to make it 8-6.
The Silverbacks' Bernie Lilavois gave his team breathing room with a one-point power-play goal 5: 20 into the fourth period, and Cincinnati's defense held for the remainder of the game.
"Carlos Pena has been unbelievable for us all season, and I think today our attitude was great," Fernandez said.
The Spirit will return home to play the Harrisburg Heat on Friday, then will travel to Harrisburg on Saturday and to Cleveland on Sunday.
"I think we've been well, but sometimes it doesn't show up that way," Stankovic said. "Sometimes you play well and you lose, and sometimes you're lousy and you win. Go figure."
Pub Date: 12/29/96