Freddie Thompson kept insisting he didn't come to the Baltimore Arena last night with revenge on his mind.
But it looked as if Thompson had some scores to settle as he darted around the floor and helped the disciplined Tacoma Stars deal the Baltimore Blast a 5-3 defeat before a crowd of 4,650.
Thompson, who was released by Baltimore before this season started, and the Stars gave the Blast a 60-minute clinic and showed again they are a much better team without scoring star Preki.
Tacoma (10-5) has won two straight on the road and continues to lead the Major Soccer League Western Division.
Thompson, an explosive midfielder who wondered why he never got a chance to play in a regular-season game before being let go by the Blast, scored one goal last night in his first appearance at the Arena since leaving Baltimore.
Thompson's goal came nine seconds after Domenic Mobilio had given the Blast a 1-0 lead 8 minutes, 16 seconds into the first quarter.
Tacoma coach Keith Weller, who is a strong candidate for MSL Coach of the Year for the way he has turned the Stars around after a last-place finish, said Thompson's goal helped Tacoma carry out its game plan.
"We just wanted to stay in the game, and hopefully they would get tired at the end since they had played last night [Saturday] tTC and we hadn't," said Weller. "I think that's exactly what happened."
Weller said Thompson has come to the Stars and performed perfectly in the team's unselfish approach to the game.
"Freddie is a quiet guy who is doing everything we want him to," said Weller. "He's been a leader at times and fit in with our disciplined approach to the game. But I know this is an emotional game and Freddie showed a little more than usual tonight."
Unlike the days in Baltimore when he went out and played without much emotion, Thompson looked as if he were having a good time last night.
He was smiling and giving instructions to his fellow teammates on several occasions.
"I'm not a vindictive man," said Thompson. "I don't really want to go into the reasons why I was let go by the Blast. I don't think it had anything to do with my playing ability. And I don't think I had anything to prove to the players and the coaches [Kenny Cooper and Jim Pollihan]. But maybe I did have something to prove to the fans and my godchildren [Courtney and Tiffany Donnelly, who live in Baltimore]."
"When I was released, my godchildren went to school and had to hear from the classmates that Freddie wasn't any good anymore."
Thompson appeared a little hurt by those remarks, and that seemed to inspire him last night.
When Thompson was let go, a few people close to the Blast said the team was worried about his knees not holding up all season.
Cooper denied that last night: "Freddie was released because we decided to go with younger players who would fit into the salary cap. That's the bottom line, and there's nothing else to say about it. I'm happy that he has found happiness in Tacoma."
Baltimore (8-7) missed a chance to go three games over .500 for the first time this season.
Just when it looked as if the Blast was ready to go on a winning streak, it took a step backward on a night that forward Dale Mitchell (sprained left ankle) and midfielder Mark Mettrick (strained groin) didn't play.
Six-time All-Star Bruce Savage went out with a sprained ankle in the third quarter.
But David Vaudreuil's goal at 12:54 of the third quarter tied the game at 3, and Baltimore was in the fight.
Less than a minute later, Steve Kinsey beat Scott Manning on a shootout for a goal that proved to be the winning score.
Kinsey sent the ball off Manning's hand on the shootout that was given to the Stars when Manning was called for tripping Mark Karpun on a breakaway.
Cooper said: "We had a couple of defenders get overanxious and they went forward on a break that would have put us up, 4-3. They left Karpun all alone at the other end, and that resulted in the penalty and the shootout goal."