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Soles push Blast to brink with 4-2 victory in Game 1 of MASL finals

Soles push Blast to brink with 4-2 victory in Game 1 of MASL finals
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Too many unforced errors, too many bad decisions and poor finishing.

The Blast, with the chance to repeat as Major Arena Soccer League champions, didn't get off to the start they wanted to in Game 1 of the Newman Cup finals against visiting Soles de Sonora.

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In a rematch of last year's title series, the defending champions were held scoreless in the first half and then faltered in the third quarter shortly after breaking through.

Sonora scored three straight goals in the third quarter and in an otherwise slow night for offense, it was enough for the Soles to claim a 4-2 win over the Blast before an announced crowd of 6,701 at Royal Farms Arena.

The teams will next travel to Hermosillo, Mexico, to close out the series at Centro de Usos Multiples on Sunday. Game 2 is set for 9 p.m. with a 15-minute mini game immediately following if the series is tied.

Having to play the rest of the series on the Soles' tiny field, which features pinball-like play and lots of goals, the Blast have put themselves in a tough spot needing two wins Sunday to bring home Baltimore's ninth indoor professional championship.

The Blast have a few things going for them: They have won there before, clinching last year's title with a 14-13 overtime win; they know they didn't play their best Friday; and they were able to come back earlier in the playoffs when the Harrisburg Heat upset them at home in the East Division final.

The Blast also are a confident team.

"Sonora had a great season and they deserve to be here, but we beat ourselves tonight. We didn't play well enough to win a game in a championship series," Blast coach Danny Kelly said. "The bottom line is we were going to have to win a game in Sonora anyway, so we have to flush this game away. It's a tough place to play, but we've won there before, so that's our mindset going in."

Frustrated, held scoreless and down a goal at the half, the Blast quickly found life when Andrew Hoxie scored a textbook goal on the power play 31 seconds into the third quarter. But just as fast, the Soles took it away.

The visitors reclaimed the lead on a goal from Daniel Lopez with 9:57 left in the third quarter and goals from Erick Rosas and Hiram Ruiz made it 4-1 going into the fourth quarter.

A goal from Adriano Dos Santos with 10:49 to play got the Blast within 4-2. The home team pressured, but couldn't get any closer with Sonora goalie Diego Reynoso finishing with 20 saves.

"This team has a lot of belief, we never give up, we believe in each other and we've been down so many times with minutes left on the clock and come from behind and got the result, so this team is not lacking confidence and come Sunday we'll be ready to go," Blast captain Tony Donatelli said.

In trailing 1-0 at the half, the Blast kept the score close with strong defense in the first quarter and better work with the ball in the second quarter.

In beginning their defense of last year's crown, the Blast spent a lot of time defending with the Soles fast and aggressive at the start.

The visitors quickly scored the championship's first goal when Enrique Canez got behind the Blast defense and chipped a shot over a drawn-out Vanzela for a 1-0 lead 3:24 into play.

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The Blast's forte has long been defense and they needed it to keep it at 1-0 through the first quarter.

Vanzela made two brilliant stops — the first coming off a shot from Franck Tayou seconds after the Sonora goal and the second with less than two minutes to play when Damian Garcia hit a heavy shot from the right corner.

Outshot 8-2 in the first 15 minutes, the Blast defenders blocked four shots with Dos Santos clearing Mauricio Salles' shot off the line midway through the quarter.

Much of the Blast's offense in the first quarter came from Vini Dantas, who was strong on the ball and had two shots go just wide.

The Blast spent much more time with the ball in the second quarter, but were unable to convert a number of quality scoring chances as the frustration mounted.

Shots went high or wide and others were turned away by Reynoso, who had six saves in the quarter with his best coming on a quick turn and shoot from Lucas Roque with 6:03 to play.

The Blast had a power play in the final minutes they failed to cash in on, only mustering two shots while the Soles had the best chance with a two-on-one fast break that was broken up in front.

In last year's series, the Blast opened with a 7-4 home win before traveling to Mexico to claim the title with a 14-13 overtime win in Game 2.

"It was a difficult game for us tonight, a disappointing result," Donatelli said. "We had a lot of chances to be honest, but we were off. Our shots were off, our final passes were off. We're confident if we finish off some of those chances early it could have maybe been a different game. When we go down we can build off the experience of winning the championship there last year. We had to win on Sunday either way and right now we've got to win two, and we're confident we can do it."

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