Blast's 'best ever' Cleveland effort brings satisfaction, but not victory


RICHFIELD, Ohio -- Looks were deceiving last night at the Richfield Coliseum.

The Cleveland Crunch wound up with an 8-5 victory over the Blast before a crowd of 3,517, but Baltimore coach Kenny Cooper talked as if his team had won.

"This was the best we've ever played here," Cooper said after the Blast rallied from a 6-1 deficit with 13 minutes remaining.

"This never was a 6-1 game, no matter what the scoreboard said," Cooper said. "We played a lot of our younger players tonight with Mike Stankovic [bruised right foot] and Domenic Mobilio [sprained left ankle] missing. Other than the final result, I was pleased with our performance. We established a rhythm and we worked hard. The difference tonight was we gave up a couple of goals late in the second and third quarters.

"They had finishers in their lineup tonight and being short-handed, we didn't," Cooper said. "But, it was never a 6-1 game."

Earlier this season, the Crunch scored 11-2 and 9-3 victories over the Blast at Richfield. Last night's win evened the season series at 3-3. The Blast (17-16) remains in second place in the Major Soccer League Eastern Division, 1 1/2 games behind Kansas City. Cleveland (14-19) is in third place, 4 1/2 games out of first.

The Blast might be able to make up some ground when it travels to St. Louis to meet the Storm tomorrow night. The Blast is 3-0 against the Storm. Then it returns home Sunday to play the Comets.

The Blast has lost four straight on the road. The Crunch, meanwhile, has a team-record five-game winning streak at home. Cleveland has won five of its last six games overall, including Sunday night's 7-6 win over Tacoma. In that one, the Crunch blew a 6-2 lead.

"We're making them close on purpose," Crunch coach Trevor Dawkins said with a laugh. "Excitement draws fans back and we're trying to draw more fans. Sure, we'd like to blow someone out, but we lack the killer instinct.

"The other night I felt our work rate was at fault, but tonight I felt it was good," Dawkins said. "It's just that sometimes it came on the wrong side of the ball and we were backing away when we should have been going forward."

For the Crunch, Zoran Karic scored his second goal of the night two minutes into the fourth quarter for the 6-1 advantage, only to have the Blast score the next three goals.

Rusty Troy added the first of his two goals just 21 seconds after Karic's score and Tim Wittman scored his 24th of the season at the 5:33 mark to cut the lead to 6-3.

Troy's second goal came on a Blast power play with 6:30 remaining, cutting the lead to 6-4, before Hector Marinaro added his second goal with 3:16 left.

Crunch forward Michael King and Blast forward Dale Mitchell capped the scoring with goals in the final 18 seconds of play.

Hank Henry was in goal for the Blast, and his record dropped to 6-5 after the 14-save performance. Wittman finished with two goals and one assist; he now has scored at least one point in 10 straight games.

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