The Blast shrugged off its early-season home struggles, had the important bounces go its way and, most importantly, stayed on course for all 60 minutes Friday night against the visiting Missouri Comets.
After dropping its first three home games, the Blast showed resolve instead of panic in the fourth quarter to earn a 17-9 win over the Comets before an announced crowd of 4,081 at 1st Mariner Arena.
Forwards Carlos Garcia and Adauto Neto each scored two goals, and the Blast went 2-for-3 on the power play. The defense, which suffered fourth-quarter collapses in two home losses last week, didn't bend against a Missouri team that came in averaging a league-best 14.4 points per game.
The Blast improves to 6-3 in the Major Indoor Soccer League's Eastern Division to pad its first-place lead to two games in front of idle Syracuse.
"For me, a lot of times in the fourth quarter, it's about an attitude," Blast coach Danny Kelly said. "It's about a willingness to do whatever it takes to get a win, and I think we showed that tonight, whereas the last couple of games we didn't do what we needed to in order to get the result."
Taking a 6-4 lead into the third quarter, Garcia scored consecutive goals to build a 10-4 lead midway through the period.
In nearly the same position the previous Friday against the Comets — enjoying a 10-2 advantage well into the third quarter — the Blast squandered the lead and fell, 12-10. The next night, Syracuse came into 1st Mariner Arena and scored the game's final eight points for a 12-9 win.
But this time, after Missouri's Leo Gibson cut the deficit to 10-6 late in the third quarter, the Blast took charge, with Neto blasting home a reassuring goal with 7:34 left in the fourth for a 12-6 lead. With an extra attacker on the field, the Comets got a three-point goal from Tiguinho with 2:02 to play to cut the lead to 12-9, but the Blast put the game away with goals from Mike Lookingland and Ptah Myers in the final minute.
Garcia said the key to closing out the win was simple — "defense."
"Basically, we worked very hard the past couple weeks on tracking guys and making sure we're behind the ball, and we did that in the fourth quarter," Garcia continued. "It's a huge win. It's very, very important for us, because we know we're the best team out there and everyone is gunning for us. But if you don't win at home you're nothing."
The home team had the bounces go its way early to jump out to a 4-0 lead five minutes into the game.
Forward Shaun David caught Comets goalie Danny Waltman out of position, squirting a shot past him that then sneaked past a defender as it crossed the line 1:12 into play. Four minutes later, Neto scored a power-play goal from a difficult angle, his shot bouncing off Waltman and just inside the near post.
The Blast's 4-0 advantage stuck until the closing minutes of the second quarter, when the Comets scored two goals less than a minute apart to tie the game at 4 with 1:49 until intermission. The Blast quickly got one goal back when Machel Millwood outworked the Comets' defense in close to score his seventh goal of the season and give the Blast a 6-4 lead at the half.
NOTE: The Blast announced Friday that it will release forward Matt Watson, effective Jan. 1, to enable him to sign a contract with Major League Soccer's Vancouver Whitecaps FC. Watson, who played collegiate soccer at UMBC, is in his fifth season with the Blast and was part of two championship teams. Friday's game was his last on home turf, and he will play two more on the road for the Blast before departing.
Blast 17, Comets 9
Missouri 0 4 2 3 — 9
Blast 4 2 4 7 — 17
Scoring: 1. Blast, David, 2 pt., (Healey), 1:12; 2. Blast, Neto, 2 pt., (Millwood), pp., 5:24
Penalties: Missouri, (too many men), 5:04; Blast, Garcia, (holding ), 8:03
Scoring: 3. Missouri, Tiguinho, 2 pt., (Neto), 12:27; 4. Missouri, Neto, 2 pt., (Geison), 13:11; 5. Blast, Millwood, 2 pt., (Watson), 13:20.
Scoring: 6. Blast, Garcia, 2 pt., (Healey), 4:43; 7. Blast, Garcia, 2 pt., (Lookingland), pp., 2 pt., 7:56; 8. Missouri, Gibson, pp. 2 pt., 12:37.
Penalties: Missouri, Assadpour, (hand ball), 6:05; Blast, David, (striking), 11:22; Blast, David, (kicking), 14:51.
Scoring: 9. Blast, Neto, 2 pt., 6:26; 10. Missouri, Tiguinho, 3 pt., 12:58; 11. Blast, Lookingland, 3 pt., 13:22; 12. Blast, Myers, 2 pt., 14:09.
Penalties: Missouri, Stokic, (holding), 2:33.
Shots on goal: Missouri 5-4-6-10 — 25; Blast 4-5-9-8 — 26.
Power-play opportunities: Missouri 1-for-3; Blast 2-for-3.
Goalie saves: Missouri, Waltman 2-3-3-3 — 11 ; Blast, Sagu 2-2-1-3 — 8.
A – 4,081.