After evenly played regulation time, one 10-minute overtime period and then sudden-death play, it was apparent that a special goal would be required from either the Blast or the visiting Monterrey Flash to take the first game of the Major Arena Soccer League's championship series.
Monterrey midfielder Armando Teran provided it. Teran redirected a shot sent in from defender Hector Vallejo to give the Flash a 6-4 double-overtime win in front of an announced at 6,712 at Royal Farms Arena.
The series will resume in Monterrey on Sunday, with Game 2 scheduled for 7:05 p.m. and a 15-minute mini game immediately following if the Blast can rebound from Friday's loss.
"The bottom line is we weren't good enough tonight," Blast coach Danny Kelly said. "We had opportunities to win the game and didn't convert our chances. It was frustrating — we definitely didn't play our best soccer period.
"I can't explain it. I felt we should have won the game, but when we don't finish opportunities it comes back to bite you. That's the old adage, and it certainly did for us."
After Monterrey (22-2) scored a tying goal with 5:06 remaining in the fourth quarter, the Blast had chance after chance in the first 10-minute overtime. In the second OT, the Blast (21-3) faced more adversity, as MASL Goalkeeper of the Year William Vanzela twice needed treatment for a strained hamstring. He stayed on the field but was unable to keep Teran from scoring his second goal of the game.
"William said he's going to do everything he can to play [Sunday], so we'll see," Kelly said. "Obviously we have Phil [Saunders] and we have a lot of confidence in him, but we'll hope William is ready to go."
With the score tied at 2 at halftime, the Blast played its typical brand of soccer that led to its undefeated home mark during the regular season. It had the ball more, created scoring chances and defended well when called on through the third quarter. Missing was the goal to gain a lead.
It finally came midway through the fourth quarter when leading scorer Tony Donatelli made it 4-2 with 7:26 to play. It took crafty work to break through. Lucas Roque made a strong run to the right corner and sent a short drop on the same side to Donatelli, who one-timed a left-footed shot that found the top corner.
The Blast has leaned on its stout defense all season, but a breakdown moments later proved costly when Monterrey midfielder Edgar Flores was left free in front. His first shot was brilliantly cleared from the goal line by Donatelli, but Flores was able to get just enough on his second try to get it past Vanzela and Donatelli for the tying goal with 5:06 left.
The game had an immediate championship series feel with tight marking from both sides.
The Blast had chances to set an early tone, but shots from Diego Zuniga, Lucas Roque and Vini Dantas in the opening minutes either went wide, high or right at Flash goalie Diego Reynoso.
The Blast also had its share of possession after regulation, but got nothing to show for it.
"I thought we had better possession in the overtime, and possession equals goals pretty much for us," Blast captain Pat Healey said. "Guys had the chances, but we didn't find a way. We have a chance to redeem ourselves on Sunday."
The visitors went ahead 2-0 with 8:24 left in the first quarter when Armando Teran buried a rebound that came out in front.
A nifty header from Blast forward Adauto Neto tied at 2 with 12:23 left in the first half. Stationed in front with his back to the Flash goal, he tracked and redirected a long outlet pass from Vanzela to find the top corner.
It was a rare finish for the Kelly's team, which he knows will need to rebound quickly.
"As frustrated as I am right now, it's one game," the coach said. "We can sulk about this loss until midnight then we have to focus on going to Mexico and getting the result. There's no reason why we can't go there and still win a championship. And that's got to be everybody's mentality — and that's what we're going to do.