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Blast's outlook gets clouded by Storm, 7-3 Baltimore misses chance to move up


ST. LOUIS -- After winning three of four games at home, the Blast was looking forward to an important showdown with the Wichita Wings tomorrow.

Perhaps the Blast was looking too far ahead. The last-place Storm beat Baltimore last night, 7-3, behind two goals and an assist from Preki.

The loss knocked Baltimore below .500 at 13-14. The Blast remains tied for third in the Major Soccer League with the Wings, who also lost last night, but Baltimore missed a chance to move into third all alone.

Ted Eck and Branko Segota also scored twice, and George Pastor scored once for St. Louis. Mark Mettrick, Rod Castro and Kevin Sloan provided the offense for the Blast.

"We came here to win the game," Blast goalie Cris Vaccaro said. "They seemed to want it more than we did. They were getting to an awful lot of loose balls over us."

After a listless first half in which the Storm built a 3-0 lead, the Blast picked up the pace early in the third quarter and scored at the 4:51 mark. Joe Koziol shot from the left boards and the ball trickled through Storm keeper Jim Gorsek's leg and lay on the goal line. Mettrick was there to slam dunk his 13th goal of the season to make it 3-1.

But St. Louis scored two goals 13 seconds apart later in the quarter to put the game away.

The first of those two came when John Klein got control of the ball on the right wing for St. Louis and crossed it to Segota for the easy goal at 11:40 to make it 4-1. The goal was Segota's 35th of the season.

Just 13 seconds later, Pastor got the ball off the kickoff, dribbled it down the left wing and beat Vaccaro with a hard shot to make it 5-1.

Castro scored a shootout goal at 4:24 of the fourth quarter, but that was the extent of the Blast comeback. Eck scored for the Storm, and the Blast's Sloan countered at the 14:03 mark. But just one second later, Segota added his second goal. That set an MSL record for the quickest goal.

Only 10 seconds into the game, Castro missed a chance to put the Blast on top when he hit the crossbar on a shot from the left wing. That was the last highlight of the quarter for the Blast.

After a couple of close chances, Preki got an opportunity to put St. Louis on top with a free kick at the top of the box. He beat Vaccaro high at the 4:18 mark of the first quarter to give the Storm the lead, 1-0.

"That first goal is important to get on the road, and they [the Storm] got it," Blast coach Kenny Cooper said. "Preki is right on his game, and we couldn't stop him all night."

Less than three minutes later, Preki's shot from the top of the box was stopped by Vaccaro, but Eck headed in the rebound for a 2-0 St. Louis lead after one quarter.

Preki, the league's most prolific scorer the past five seasons, faked Iain Fraser in a one-on-one situation on the left wing. With Fraser out of the way, Preki easily beat Vaccaro to make the score 3-0 with a little more than 10 minutes to play in the half.

"We weren't focused in the first half," Vaccaro said. "They were able to take advantage of that and get on a roll."

Gorsek faced only token pressure from the Blast. Baltimore had only 10 shots in the first half and was unable to beat the St. Louis keeper. That marked only the second time this season St. Louis has kept an opponent scoreless during the first half.

Storm coach Don Popovic said: "We played very good defense tonight. Everyone was getting back, and that was a key for us."

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