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Mitchell gives Blast badly needed lift


TACOMA, Wash. -- The Baltimore Blast, a team in desperate need of a victory, finally got one last night.

Dale Mitchell's third goal of the game -- 1:43 into overtime -- was the difference in the Blast's 5-4 Major Soccer League win over the Tacoma Stars.

Carrying a five-game losing streak and a nine-game one on the road, including six in a row in the Tacoma Dome, where all four games this season have gone into overtime, the Blast knew it wouldn't be easy.

It wasn't.

Baltimore spotted Tacoma a 3-0 halftime lead, then rallied with two goals in both the third and fourth periods before Mitchell ended what coach Kenny Cooper had called "the most important game in the 11-year history of the franchise."

"We needed this one," Cooper said after the win, which put the third-place Blast (20-23) 2 1/2 games behind first-place Cleveland. "When you're down 3-0 at halftime, it's easy to fall apart. But we made the breaks, and we didn't make any mistakes in the second half."

At halftime, Cooper told his players the first 7 1/2 minutes of the third quarter would be decisive.

"We needed to get a goal in those first 7 1/2 minutes and we needed the score to be 3-2 at the end of the third quarter," Cooper said.

By moving Mike Stankovic to midfield and Rusty Troy to the back, the Blast made that 3-2 score a reality by the end of the third period.

With 3:22 left in regulation, Cooper pulled goalkeeper Scott Manning in favor of sixth attacker Billy Ronson, and the move paid off when Domenic Mobilio scored the tying goal with 1:43 remaining.

In dramatic fashion, Mitchell, who played for the Stars from 1984-86, produced his fourth hat trick this season and second against Tacoma. It was Tacoma's first loss in eight overtime games this season.

"Chris [Reif] was on the left side, calling for the ball," Mitchell said. "He shot it and it hit the boards. [Tacoma goalie] Cris Vaccaro dove for the ball and it popped up. Once he committed himself on the dive, there wasn't much he could do to get back and defend the goal."

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