The Spirit will meet the Cleveland Crunch, the winningest team in the National Professional Soccer League and the defending champion, in the second round of the playoffs.
The best-of-three series will start Friday at 7: 35 in Cleveland, with Game 2 on Sunday at 7: 05 in Baltimore and Game 3, if necessary, Monday at 7: 35 in Cleveland.
The fourth-seeded Spirit was matched against top-seeded Cleveland after the No. 3 Cincinnati Silverbacks eliminated the No. 6 Tampa Bay Terror, 16-11, last night to win that first-round series, two games to one.
Cincinnati will face the No. 2 Harrisburg Heat in the second round, also starting Friday. Cleveland and Harrisburg drew first-round byes as division champions and have home-field advantage in the second round.
Cleveland, which ousted Baltimore in the second round last year, had the best mark (29-11) in the league this season, including 18-2 at home. The Spirit, which dropped both regular-season games to the Crunch, was 8-12 away.
Since the Spirit swept two straight from the Philadelphia Kixx in the first round last weekend, allowing just 16 points, player-coach Mike Stankovic has professed it wouldn't make any difference whether the team next played Cleveland or Harrisburg.
"I don't care," Stankovic said. "All I care is that we play the way we're capable, like we did in those two games against Philadelphia."
(NPSL scores, schedule, 6D)
Spirit vs. Crunch
Best of three
Date .. .. ..Site .. .. ..Time
Friday ...Cleveland .. ...7: 35
Sunday ...Baltimore .. ...7: 05
Monday* ..Cleveland .. ...7: 35
Pub Date: 4/09/97