Penalties proved to be the Blast's best friends last night in a crucial victory that ended a two-game losing streak at 1st Mariner Arena.
Two power-play goals and another score just after a penalty had expired doomed the California Cougars, 8-6, before 6,830.
The Cougars, last in the Major Indoor Soccer League with a 5-11 record, were cited for eight infractions to none for the Blast, which had dropped six of its previous seven games.
Still, the Blast (6-8) had to hold on at the finish after California pulled its goalkeeper with less than four minutes to play and Vicente Figueroa trimmed the Blast lead to two points with 1:19 remaining. Sagu turned aside two potential game-tying shots in the remaining time to preserve Baltimore's third win this season over the Cougars.
Machel Millwood paced a Blast offense that still wasn't up to snuff with two goals and an assist and now has eight goals in the series between the teams this season.
The result didn't exactly delight Blast coach Danny Kelly, who laid into his team after Friday's 7-2 defeat to Milwaukee.
"In my mind, this was still not good enough," said Kelly. "We got the win and that's a positive because this was a huge game for us. You can't talk about the playoffs yet, but at the same time you can. We need to get our heads on straight. If we don't do it now, the playoffs are not going to be within reach."
California jumped to a 4-0 first-quarter lead as the Blast offense failed to wake up early. But two rapid-fire goals within 19 seconds, the first by Millwood on a tap-in, and the second unassisted by Denison Cabral, got the team into a halftime tie.
With the Cougars attracting one penalty after another, the third quarter was all Blast. But, despite a 25-3 shot advantage in the period, the Blast could cash in only once, taking a shaky 6-4 lead. Mike Lookingland got the goal - with Millwood assisting - one second after a penalty against Eduardo Velez had expired.
What proved the clincher came in the final quarter when Lee Tschantret dug the ball off the boards, pulled Dominick Jakubek out of position and the ball crossed the goal mouth to Millwood, who tapped it in.
"We've been struggling, so at this point, it doesn't matter how [the goals] come," Millwood said. "Every shot is a big shot."
The Blast could get some relief when it plays another Friday-Saturday stand at home. Forward Guiliano Celenza, a potent scorer, is expected to start working at full speed in practice and could be ready for the weekend.
"We can use somebody who can finish his chances. Gules can certainly do that," Kelly said.
California 4 0 0 2 - 6
Blast 0 4 2 2 - 8
First quarter: 1. Calif., Figueroa (Jakubek), 10:59; 2. Calif., Tovar (Figueroa), 13:55. Penalties: None. Second quarter: 3. Blast, Millwood (Garcia), 13:02; 4. Blast, Cabral (unassisted), 13:21. Penalties: Calif., Lilavois, 13:13. Third quarter: 5. Blast, Lookingland (Millwood), 9:48. Penalties: Calif., bench, 1:21; Calif., Chantel, 4:24., Calif., Velez, 7:47; Calif., Coach Dayak, 10:41, Calif., Figueroa, 14:40. Fourth quarter: 6. Blast, Millwood (Tschantret), 6:11; 7. Calif., Figueroa (Tovar), 13:41. Penalties: Calif., Velez, 4:45, Calif., bench, 4:45. Att.: 6,830.