SAN DIEGO -- After a 6-4 loss to the San Diego Sockers in the final minute Saturday night increased the Baltimore Blast's road losing streak to nine, coach Kenny Cooper was letting the sting die down before he addressed his team in the locker room.
There was little sound in the dressing room at the San Diego Sports Arena except for the occasional crack of a pop-top on a beverage can.
"I've been through these spells before in my coaching career, but the young guys haven't," Cooper said outside the dressing room after he watched the Sockers outscore his team, 3-1, in the fourth quarter. "Close isn't close enough, and that's what I have to tell them," he said.
San Diego defender Ben Collins stole the ball from Richard Chinapoo in the final minute, creating a three-on-two rush against Blast goalkeeper Hank Henry. Collins passed to Waad Hirmez, Hirmez flipped to Rod Castro, and Castro scored to put the Sockers ahead, 5-4.
"It was a typical Blast-Sockers game," said Sockers coach Ron Newman, whose team has won 17 consecutive home games. "I think the fans loved it."
Wes Wade's empty-net goal with 24 seconds to play made it 6-4 to the delight of the 7,494 on hand, but Cooper added it to his string of one-goal defeats on principle.
"We've been playing hard, but there always seems to be something that happens," Cooper said.
Two of the Blast's past three losses have been by one goal, including a 6-5 road loss in triple overtime to the Tacoma Stars on Feb. 24.
The team has been outscored, 87-76, in the fourth quarter this season and also has been giving up more shots in the second half, not the style that would be expected of a team that has been the king of the MSL East for many years.
"We've had things our way in the East," Cooper said. "But I think you build character in these kinds of games.
"Look, we are the only ones in the East that haven't gone on a run or been on a roll and we are still right there," Cooper said.
The loss kept Baltimore in third place in the MSL East, three games behind the Cleveland Crunch and 1 1/2 games behind the slumping Kansas City Comets. The Blast's next five games, however, are against Western Division teams and the Wichita Wings, the East's last-place team. They will travel to Tacoma, Wash., tomorrow night.
Cooper said his club had been "fighting like dogs" during its losing streak, but needed a win before too long to get back on track.
"This would have been a tremendous victory for us," Cooper said. "You feel helpless watching it happen.
"You can be in a dogfight all of the time, but you can't keep getting bit all of the time."