TACOMA, Wash. -- It took 90 minutes, 57 seconds in the Tacoma Dome yesterday, but Tacoma Stars forward Gary Heale finally got some help in turning back the Baltimore Blast.
It came from teammate Billy Crook, who scored Tacoma's sixth goal in the Stars' 6-5 triple-overtime win, and from referee Herb Silva, who gave Tacoma the chance it needed to put away the Blast.
With 33 seconds remaining in the second overtime, Silva flagged Richard Chinapoo for tripping Tacoma's Greg Ion.
"I never touched him," Chinapoo said. "I have no idea what he [Silva] saw. He was way over on the other side of the field. You've got to give him [Ion] credit for taking a dive. It was good on his part, but an experienced ref should know when someone's going to take a dive. It's too bad it ended that way, but you can never beat the referees."
It wasn't your athlete's standard denial. Chinapoo was telling the truth.
"In all fairness, Richard didn't touch me," Ion said. "Sometimes things go for you, sometimes they don't. But Richard is right in what he says. He didn't touch me."
"I was real disappointed with the calls in overtime," Blast coach Kenny Cooper said. "They let things get away at the end. Both teams were spent . . . it was a great game . . . to give a power play for nothing; do me a favor. You can't make that call. There's no growth without adversity . . . our young guys will grow from this one."
All that aside, this game clearly belonged to Heale, the oft-maligned Englishman. He single-handedly held the Blast at bay through regulation, scoring all five Tacoma goals, the last coming at 10:14 of the fourth quarter to force overtime. The five goals tied his career high.
"When things go for you, it can be a bit of fun," Heale said. "I'm just glad we won. It's no use scoring goals if you wind up losing."
The loss, its fifth straight in overtime, dropped the Blast to 19-20.
"I can't say enough for our effort," Cooper said. "It's been a difficult weekend. We lost last [Saturday] night, got up at 5:30 this morning, flew in here at 2 o'clock this afternoon and our hotel wasn't ready, then we played at 4 o'clock. Our guys deserve all the credit. They played their hearts out."
The Blast lost most of its firepower throughout the game finishing without Mike Stankovic, Dale Mitchell (sprained ankle) and Tim Wittman (sprained knee). That left Cooper's young players to take up the fight.
"Even so, we had our chances," Cooper said.
For the 4,231 in attendance, this Major Soccer League game provided a little bit of everything.
Tacoma appeared to have won the game when, with 6:34 to go in the second overtime, Ion scored from 15 yards out on the right side. Officials ruled, however, that a whistle had stopped action before the shot.
The Blast reached the second overtime by somehow surviving the first, in which the Blast killed a three-minute Tacoma power play. With 5:22 remaining, Stankovic received a red card for punching Tacoma's Steve Kinsey. Stankovic was ejected and the Blast was handed a five-minute penalty. Kinsey got a yellow card and two minutes.
Tacoma pounded away in the final three minutes of the period, but couldn't find the back of the net, thanks to inspired defense and Hank Henry's goalkeeping.
Heale came within a shoelace of scoring the game-winner with 26 seconds left in regulation, but Ion's pass to the wide-open Heale was just out of reach.
The goals came early and often in front of the small crowd. The Stars jumped out in front 53 seconds into the contest on Heale's first goal of the night. Shawn Medved dribbled through a couple of Blast defenders and put the ball on Heale's toe at the far post for the tap-in.