PHILADELPHIA -- Playing textbook indoor soccer, the Spirit charged into the second round of the National Professional Soccer League playoffs.
The Spirit's 18-8 domination of the Philadelphia Kixx yesterday before 6,837 at the CoreStates Spectrum probably was the team's best-played game of the season. It completed a two-game, first-round sweep of the Kixx.
"When you talk about a full 60 minutes, team defense, intensity, determination, heart, whatever, it was all done today," goalie-assistant coach Cris Vaccaro said.
The Spirit will open the second round Friday on the road against the top-seeded Cleveland Crunch or the second-seeded Harrisburg Heat, both of which drew opening-round byes as division champions.
The Spirit's opponent will depend on the outcome of the Cincinnati Silverbacks-Tampa Bay Terror series, currently tied at 1, with the deciding game scheduled tomorrow night.
If Cincinnati wins, the Spirit will play Cleveland in the American Conference semifinals. If Tampa Bay upsets the Silverbacks, the Spirit will meet Harrisburg.
Whether it's Cleveland or Harrisburg, Game 2 of the semifinal will be played Sunday at Baltimore Arena. Game 3, if necessary, will be April 14 in Cleveland or April 15 in Harrisburg.
In abruptly ending the expansion Kixx's inaugural season, the Spirit outhustled Philadelphia on loose balls, applied constant defensive pressure, shot well and played keepaway in the fourth quarter to spare its opponent further embarrassment.
Veteran Branko Segota, who scored the game's first goal, also scored the last, a three-pointer with three seconds remaining that angered the Kixx. It was the Spirit's only score of the quarter.
"I took exception to it," Philadelphia coach Dave MacWilliams said. "It was his choice. It wasn't right, but what are you going to do?"
Kixx defender Omid Namazi, however, had "no problem with it" and Segota vigorously defended himself.
"I show no mercy to anyone in the playoffs," he said. "You've got to make sure the other team doesn't have even a flicker of hope. Our job is scoring goals to put teams away."
Segota set the tone by threading his first goal through three or four Philadelphia defenders.
"I always go hard in the first quarter in the playoffs," Segota said. "That's when teams are most vulnerable."
Baltimore player-coach Mike Stankovic said his team was spurred in both games by a quote supposedly uttered by MacWilliams on a Philadelphia radio show on April 3.
MacWilliams' words were posted on the Spirit's locker room wall: "We would rather play Baltimore [in the first round]. It should be a good tuneup for the second round when we will probably have to face a good team -- the Cleveland Crunch."
If MacWilliams said that, it was out of character. In 1 1/2 seasons as the Spirit's coach, he never said anything remotely like that about an opponent.
"I wasn't even on a radio show on April 3," MacWilliams said. "I would never say anything like that."
Goalie Joe Mallia, in the absence of the injured Vaccaro, allowed 16 points in the two games. Thanks to the team's defense, Mallia faced only 13 shots yesterday.
The newest rookie out of Fallston High and the University of Maryland, Shane Dougherty, had two goals. Bo Vuckovic had two goals and three assists.
Jamie Christie's third-quarter goal against former Philadelphia Textile roommate Pete Pappas, the Kixx goalie, raised the lead to 12-3.
NOTES: Jason Dieter reinjured his knee; the slight tear he suffered Feb. 22 tore a little more. He is questionable for Friday night's opener of the conference semifinals.
Pub Date: 4/07/97