CLEVELAND - The first goal by Blast midfielder Denison Cabral could easily be considered the highlight of yesterday's 2002 Major Indoor Soccer League All-Star Game, including the flip and theatrics that followed.
His second, coming with 1:54 left in regulation, sent the game into overtime, in which his teammate for the day, Philadelphia KiXX forward Joel Shanker, scored to give the East a 17-15 win over the West in front of an All-Star record crowd of 13,216 at Gund Arena.
Blast keeper Scott Hileman, who replaced KiXX keeper Peter Pappas in the second half, finished with nine saves to win his second straight All-Star Game.
Afterward, Shanker, a first-time All-Star in his sixth season, first talked about the chance to sit next to indoor legend Tatu at dinner the night before.
Then, he talked about the honor of being named the game's Most Valuable Player after scoring two goals, including the game-ender, in a contest the league hopes is part of the start of bigger and better things.
The game, televised live on CNN/SI around the country and on CN8 at home, was the grand finale of a statement weekend for the league, which showcased its stars with a skills competition on Saturday and added a Legends Game yesterday to the mix.
"It was the best All-Star weekend I've ever been a part of, from Thursday night's reception all the way through to tonight," said Cleveland Crunch star Hector Marinaro, who scored a goal and had two assists to become the all-time leading scorer in All-Star games with 46 points in nine appearances.
"I know I'm a little tired - it was a long weekend - but I wouldn't have traded it for anything. And to finish with a game like this in overtime - it's just great."
The teams fired a total of 89 shots, but there was plenty of defense and some rare physical play in the mix, particularly in the closing minutes of regulation and in overtime.
"It's something we expect as players," said Cabral. "It's the All-Star weekend and [Saturday] we had fun, but when you step out on the field for the game, you play hard. This was just great."
Cabral's first goal came in the middle of 11 straight points that gave the East a 13-9 lead late in the third quarter. He took a lead pass from Harrisburg defender Nick Cornelli in the left corner and sidestepped Kansas City keeper Chris Damico before finding the far post. It was his first All-Star goal, but only the start of the show.
After an energetic backflip, he grabbed the ball and, with his teammates in a circle, tossed it high in the air. The group all fell backward in celebration.
"That was all [Blast teammate] Sean Bowers' doing," said Cabral. "He just told me to throw the ball up in the air and everyone would fall. It wasn't anything planned."
While the first goal provided flash, his second was of substance, another finish from the left side off a pass from fellow Brazilian Tatu.
In overtime, both sides had chance after chance before Shanker put in a rebound for his second goal of the game.
The overwhelming impression for all involved was that it was a first-class production.
The Blast was well-represented. Besides Cabral and Hileman, there was Bowers, who made a strong defensive effort and wore the captain's band for the East, and Lance Johnson.