First taste of defeat

The Baltimore Sun

ROCKFORD, Ill. - A few things happened for the first time yesterday in the Blast's second visit of the season to the Rockford Rampage.

First, the Blast got behind, which had not happened in the previous five games this season.

The Blast never led in the contest and fell for the first time this season, 14-6.

"To be honest with you, we didn't play well enough," Blast coach Danny Kelly said. "Right from the get-go, they were putting us under pressure. Basically, we got outworked."

The Blast (5-1) still sit in first place in the National Indoor Soccer League standings, though two-thirds of the season remains.

"Obviously 5-1 is not bad," Kelly said. "Tonight, we did not play well, and we need to continue to improve and get better. You don't get any trophies or anything for being 5-1. Our goal is to work for championships, and that's what we'll do."

Despite trailing twice in the first half, the visitors went into halftime tied at 4. Gary Brooks put the Rampage (4-3) ahead, but Machel Millwood answered almost immediately for the Blast. And while Rockford captain Novi Marojevic gave the Rampage the lead again before the end of the first quarter, Giuliano Celenza pulled the Blast even with the only goal of the second quarter.

"We went into halftime and it was 4-4, and we knew we hadn't played all that well," Kelly said. "At that, that was all you can ask for, to be tied at halftime, on the road and knowing you hadn't played well."

The second half belonged almost exclusively to the Rampage. And the key stretch came early in the fourth quarter with the Blast trailing 6-4.

Fred Degand forced a great save by Blast goalie Sagu 90 seconds into the fourth quarter to keep the contest a one-goal affair.

Moments later, Semir Mesanovic forced a diving save from Sagu, and just after that, Sagu saved a shot by Eric Lukin.

The Blast survived that onslaught but fell further behind midway through the quarter. Billy Nelson tripped Jorge Valle inside the penalty area. On the shootout, Novi passed to Brooks, who scored.

The Blast set up a high-energy finish when Scott Buete took a pass from Millwood and scored. But a chance to tie the score was wasted with four minutes left when Celenza's shootout attempt was turned away.

With 90 seconds left, Millwood's shot was cleared off the line, and the last game-tying opportunity had evaporated.

Rockford's Enrique Tovar sent a long-range chip into the net, and the Blast's first defeat of the season was sealed.

"We all know that we have to play better if we expect to win on the road," Kelly said.

Copyright © 2021, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad