KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Scott Manning had given up six of the eight goals scored by the West in last night's Major Soccer League All-Star Game at Kemper Arena.
But a pair of saves by the Blast goalkeeper with about one minute to play in the fourth quarter was even more pivotal in the East All-Stars' 9-8 overtime victory.
"A save can turn a game around," said Blast coach Kenny Cooper, who directed the East All-Stars. "It ignited everybody. It inspired everybody on the bench."
Thus fortified, Chico Borja of the Wichita Wings scored the game-winner 25 seconds into the overtime giving the East the victory in the second-highest scoring all-star in the MSL's 12-year history. Among the 28 field players who played, 18 had at least a goal or an assist.
But in the end it was defense that made the difference.
Manning stopped a close-range shot by West defender Fernando Clavijo of St. Louis, then a header on the rebound by his Storm teammate Preki.
"The big thing was to find the ball [after Clavijo's shot]," said Manning, who was credited with his first All-Star Game victory in goal after losses in the 1987 and '90 games. "The first one, you feel. The hardest part was getting around [East defender George Fernandez]. He was falling backward into me."
The East had tied the game about a minute before Manning's big saves with a sixth-attacker goal by Blast forward Dale Mitchell.
Blast midfielder Billy Ronson was brought on as a sixth attacker for the East, which trailed 8-7 with 3:07 to play in regulation.
The strategy took only 20 seconds to work.
"Borja just spotted me wide open in front of the net," said Mitchell, who also had an assist. "All I had to do was redirect it into the net."
The West had rallied from a 6-3 deficit with just less than six minutes to play in the third quarter with four unanswered goals.
"I think when we went ahead three goals, they [the West] had to push forward and start taking the game to us," Mitchell said. "But we had an answer."
The answer was Borja, who had three goals and two assists. Borja either scored or assisted on the final four East goals, all in the second half.
"Those Wichita players were committed to the cause," Cooper said of Borja, defender Chico Moreira and forward Dale Ervine. "It was just a joy to coach them. Dale and Chico [Borja] played excellent defense for front players."
Cooper said the victory should be a morale booster for the Eastern Division clubs, which had not won an All-Star Game or championship series since 1987.
"Let's be realistic. San Diego has dominated and the West has dominated," Cooper said. "Psychologically they say to themselves, 'We can beat any team.' They [the East All-Stars] can take this game as something to build on."
The East played just the kind of game Cooper said he wanted it to play in the first half, taking a 3-2 lead into the intermission.
Blast forward Domenic Mobilio scored one of the East goals in the first half and assisted on another.
"The key was to come out and play good, tight defense and have good teamwork," Cooper said.
"In the second half, we came out and took a lead. But with the bigger goals and all the firepower the West has, it was inevitable that they were going to catch up."
Manning agreed that the West comeback was not unexpected.
"You can't expect them not to come back," Manning said. "That's what All-Star games are all about, offensive firepower.
"I was in the wrong position to enjoy it, but, yes, I did enjoy it."