The Blast had a difficult time finishing off scoring chances for much of Saturday's game against the visiting Wichita Wings, enabling them to hang around long enough to make it appear that they might leave 1st Mariner Arena with a win.
But Blast rookie forward Marco Mangione changed all that with one poised touch early in the fourth quarter.
Shortly after the Wings tied the game with six straight points, Mangione skillfully chested a ball to his left foot and then perfectly placed a volley to the near post to give the home team the lead back.
"The guy left me some space, so I figured why not chest it down and hit it," Mangione said. "I didn't see it until it actually hit the net, and then everybody went crazy, so I was like 'All right.' "
Fellow forward Lucas Roque scored 16 seconds later and added another to fully restore order and send the Blast on its way to a 12-6 win in front of an announced crowd of 7,060.
The Blast (20-5) moves into a first-place tie with the Milwaukee Wave (17-2) in the Major Indoor Soccer League with the teams meeting here next Saturday.
That game will be the regular-season finale for the Blast, while the Wave still have six games to play in addition to that one.
Defender Ptah Myers and Roque led the offense with two goals each and goalkeeper Troy Hernandez (nine saves) was sharp when needed.
The Blast led, 10-6, after Roque's first goal with 11:01 to play when Hernandez was at his best with two point-blank saves.
The Blast didn't allow a goal in the first half and had a 6-0 lead before a careless final minute of the third quarter resulted in two goals from the visitors to cut the lead to 6-4.
After the Wings' Victor Quiroz tied the score at 6 with 12:46 to play, Mangione scored his seventh goal of the season.
Roque and the timely saves from Hernandez finished out the game.
The Blast controlled the majority of the first half, possessing the ball well and making sure to get back on defense.
Myers, who had a hat trick in the Blast's 27-13 win at Missouri last Sunday, picked up where he left off with two of the team's three goals in the first half after Lucio Gonzaga opened the scoring midway through the first quarter.
The home team could have had a bigger lead at the break with two scoring chances early in the second quarter that weren't finished.
At halftime, former standout forward Tarik Walker, who a key member of three of the team's championship seasons in the mid-2000s, received a warm ovation after being inducted into the Baltimore Blast Hall of Fame.
He played for 10 seasons with the team and finished with 582 points, which ranks second on the franchise's all-time list.
Wichita 0 0 4 2 -- 6
Blast 4 2 0 6 -- 12
Scoring: 1. Blast, Gonzaga, 2 pt., (Neto), 8:36; 2. Blast, Myers, 2 pt., (Dos Santos), 10:35
Scoring: 3. Blast, Myers, 2 pt., (Roque), 11:45.
Scoring: 4. Wichita, Tiguinho, 2 pt., 14:10; 5. Wichita, Hoxie, 2 pt, (Tiguinho), 14:48.
Scoring: 6. Wichita, Quiroz, 2 pt., (Tiguinho), 2:16; 7. Blast, Mangione, 2 pt., 3:43; 8. Blast, Roque, 2 pt., (Gonzaga), 3:59; 9. Blast, Roque, 2 pt., (Dos Santos), 7:06.
Shots on goal: Wichita 3-1-6-4 -- 14; Blast 4-3-6-7 -- 20.
Power-play opportunities: Wichita 0-for-0; Blast 0-for-0.
Goalkeeper saves: Wichita, Sanaldo 1-2-2-4 -- 9; Blast Hernandez 3-1-3-2 -- 9.
A – 7,060Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun