RICHFIELD, Ohio -- Yes, the Baltimore Blast did lose again in Cleveland, as the Crunch recorded an 8-5 triumph before 3,517 at the Richfield Coliseum last night.
But unlike the previous contests -- 11-2 and 9-3 thrashings -- coach Kenny Cooper's squad battled until the end and nearly overcame a 6-1 fourth-quarter deficit.
"We played really hard with a lot of young kids," said Cooper, whose team was without second-leading scorer Domenic Mobilio (sprained left ankle) and veteran defender Mike Stankovic (bruised right foot). "It's certainly the best we've played up here this year and other than the result, I'm really pleased.
"We established some rhythm and didn't let [the Crunch] dominate."
Again, the trio of Hector Marinaro, Zoran Karic and Kai Haaskivi did most of the damage, combining for four goals and four assists.
Marinaro, who has 17 points (10 goals) in the six games between the teams, ended the Blast's late rally with a power-play goal with 3 minutes, 16 seconds remaining off a feed from Karic, who has 15 points in the series. Mike Reynolds had been called for holding 16 seconds earlier to set up the man advantage.
"They're the type of team that can finish chances with guys like Karic and Marinaro," said Cooper. "The good thing is that we didn't put our heads down and fought until the end. We proved we could come back.
"We just gave up a couple of goals late in quarters and those are the little things that cost you, particularly on the road."
Crunch coach Trevor Dawkins, whose team nearly blew a 6-1 lead Sunday against Tacoma, said, "We can't get that killer instinct and that's one thing we're lacking. Our work rate was real good."
Baltimore (17-16) trails Kansas City by 1 1/2 games the Major Soccer League's Eastern Division and has dropped four straight on the road. Meanwhile, Cleveland (14-19), which has won five of six, moved to within three games of the Blast.
Cleveland started quickly as Karic picked up a loose ball 1:52 into the game in front of the benches. Mark Mettrick, who was coming onto the field didn't see it and Karic raced in all alone to score.
Tim Wittman, who has a point in 10 straight games, evened the count at the 7:51 mark with an assist from Reynolds.
Cleveland went back on top when a pass by Andy Schmetzer intended for Mike Sweeney at the back post was tipped in by Baltimore forward Rusty Troy. Haaskivi, who has seven points in three games against the Blast, was given the assist.
Just 57 seconds before the half Marinaro tallied on a feed by Haaskivi.
Cleveland got the only two goals of the third period -- by Gregg Willin and Schmetzer (Dave Hoggan assisted on both to extend his streak to a league best 11 games) -- to make it 5-1.
Karic extended the gap to five two minutes into the final period before Baltimore fought back.
Troy sandwiched goals at the 2:21 and 8:30 marks around one by Wittman, who assisted on the second one (Mettrick set up the first), at the 5:33 mark to make it 6-4.