Chico Borja was back in Wichita, Kan., last night with a bruised right shoulder, but the show went on at the Baltimore Arena.
The Baltimore Blast kicked the Wichita Wings around for 30 minutes and then held off a second-half rally for a 9-6 victory in a wild Major Soccer League encounter before 5,827.
The win moved Baltimore (16-13) into a first-place tie with the Kansas City Comets (16-13) in the MSL Eastern Division.
It is the first time this season Baltimore has shared first place with the Comets, who started 9-1. The Blast got within one game of Kansas City twice but fell back.
It is also the first time the Blast has been three games over .500 and the first three-game winning streak this season.
Baltimore rained shots on the goal from every possible angle in the first half to take an 8-2 lead behind two goals and two assists by Dale Mitchell.
The Blast didn't score again until there were 3 minutes, 45 seconds left in the game, and four straight Wichita goals had cut the lead to 8-6 with 9:11 left in the fourth quarter.
But Billy Ronson ended the Wichita run with a beautiful open-net goal off a 135-foot shot that accounted for the final margin.
Ronson's goal came 1:22 after Wichita coach Terry Nicholl pulled goalkeeper Kris Peat and went to a sixth attacker, Victor Moreland.
For Nicholl, it was another long evening at the Baltimore Arena, where he is 1-11. Wichita is 2-21 overall at the Arena.
"I get very frustrated here," said Nicholl, who didn't kick any trash cans at halftime, as he has in the past.
At halftime, Nicholl said, "I told them by rights they should only receive half their salary since they didn't show up for the first half."
Baltimore coach Kenny Cooper thought his team put on "one of '' the finest performances in the history of the franchise" in the first 30 minutes.
"We've been talking about playing like this for a long time, but going out and doing it is something different," said Cooper. "We played one-touch, two-touch and were totally unselfish. We could have scored 11 or 12 goals."
Cooper said he wasn't surprised to see the Wings regroup in the second half.
"They were having a go at each other going into the locker room at halftime," said Cooper. "And I knew they would come out like caged lions. Fortunately Hank Henry [26 saves, including 13 in the fourth quarter] made some great saves at the end."
Henry knocked away one high-percentage shot after another in the fourth quarter.
Henry made superb saves against former Blast star David Byrne, Dale Ervine and Victor Moreland in the final minutes to hold off the Wings (12-15).
Byrne, who scored his first goal against the Blast in six games since being traded to Wichita a year ago, said: "Hank Henry saved the game. He took one away from me and a couple of other guys."
Byrne said he thought Wichita allowed the Blast to "play well" in the first half.
"I've seen Baltimore play better," said Byrne. "Terry [Nicholl] was upset with us, and he had a right to be."
With Borja out, the Blast fans didn't get a chance to boo him for putting goalie Scott Manning out of action nine days ago.
But there was plenty of other excitement, as Ronson and Byrne (( threatened to fight in the first quarter, Mark Mettrick was thrown out of the game in the second quarter for striking Wichita's Terry Rowe, and Brad Smith was tossed out in the third quarter for making an obscene gesture toward the crowd.