Blast within power play of getting 1st-place tie But loss to Stars comes in overtime

December 17, 1990|By John Lawrence | John Lawrence,Special to The Sun

TACOMA, Wash. -- Baltimore Blast coach Kenny Cooper was trying to digest it all yesterday.

If he was reaching for the Alka-Seltzer, it was because:

* His team had blown a chance to move into a tie for the lead in the Major Soccer League East with a 5-4 overtime loss to the Tacoma Stars Saturday night.

* The Blast had just lost its fifth game in a row at the Tacoma Dome, a streak that dates to March 12, 1989.

* Baltimore had just been beaten for the third time in three games by the Stars (12-6), who have the best record in the league after being a consensus pick for last place in the MSL West.

It was hard to say which aspect bothered Cooper more, though he seemed calm enough. It's just that the words came hard.

"Well, when they end in a crazy way . . ." Cooper said. "Years ago, we would come in here and have a winning record."

That was then. This is now -- a goal by Tacoma's Kia had won the game at 2 minutes, 52 seconds of the extra period after Baltimore had blown a power play late in the fourth quarter.

"A lot of the games [in the losing streak in Tacoma] have been overtime," Cooper said. "Four of the last five.

"We had our chances. And in the power play, we had two great chances. You have to end the game there.

"Hey, right now they're beating us. But there are plenty of games left. They've figured out a way to win, and that's what it's all about."

If one play spelled the demise of the Blast, it was in the power play. Veteran Mike Stankovic, in the midst of an excellent game, had the ball on left wing with what appeared to be an ocean of open net at the far post. Instead, he ripped a hard drive off the near boards that was smothered by Tacoma goalkeeper Todd Strobeck.

"We just talked about that," Cooper said. "He knows that. That's got to be a goal. That was a golden opportunity. But he's scored some big goals for us."

The long and short of this road trip was that Baltimore had put itself into a position to gain the lead with a 7-6 overtime win over Kansas City Friday, only to lose to the Stars on Saturday.

"We knew [about the first-place chance]," Cooper said. "Everybody did. We had a great win last night. Our plan was to come on the road and win both games. We knew it would be tough."

Cooper credited Strobeck, making just his second MSL start, with a large role in Tacoma's victory.

"The young boy [Strobeck] did well there," he said. "He got better and better in goal. He had a real good fourth quarter. It's just not going for us in terms of scoring goals."

The loss dimmed a fine performance by Dale Mitchell, who recorded his second hat trick and his first multi-goal game since Oct. 30.

"It was a tough loss," said Mitchell, a former Star. "We knew that Kansas City had lost. We had a good win there last [Friday] night, and this was one we could have won.

"It could have gone either way. Last night, we got into overtime and we won it. Obviously, we're disappointed."

What was surprising was that both teams played a fresh, energetic game. It should have been the struggle of the weary.

"Considering both teams had played [Friday] night, it was a good, quality game," Mitchell said. "We've had three games against them that were pretty much one-goal games, and we've been on the losing side. That's a little bit unfortunate.

"But they're a good team, and they deserve to be in first place in the West."

Of the power-play failure, Mitchell said: "If we put one in there, who knows what would have happened? We'd have been in a good position. It's something we'll have to work on."

Stars coach Keith Weller summed up Tacoma's view.

"We won against a good team, probably one of the best teams in the league -- except for us," Weller said.

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