Dallas coach Gordon Jago and his Sidekicks couldn't hide a sense of quiet satisfaction. They had come into the Arena, before a lively crowd of 9,093, to play a team in need of a victory.
For a half, as Blast coach Kenny Cooper would say later, both teams looked more interested in making the Guinness Book of Records for most goals than in winning a Major Soccer League game.
But before it was over, the Sidekicks would put together a rare team effort with a little luck to beat the Blast, 6-5.
"We're so close all the time, and lose," said Jago, whose team is 15-25 and all but mathematically out of the Western Division playoff hunt. "We showed we can play disciplined soccer and cut out our silly errors. I'm very happy for this team. It needed this victory very badly."
But so did the Blast. It was only Wednesday that Cooper and his team met and expressed how vital winning at home is.
Now what should have been an easy game is another loss on the books. It only gets tougher, meeting St. Louis, San Diego and Tacoma on the road, where the Blast has a seven-game losing streak.
"It's not the best schedule in the world, is it?" said Cooper.
Certainly not in these circumstances. The Blast -- two games under .500 for the first time since Oct. 26 -- plays in St. Louis tonight with only 14 healthy field players. Hurts keep mounting, but what else is new? The latest is Mike Reynolds, who is out indefinitely with a ruptured bursa sac in his left knee.
Still, a healthy team might not have made a difference for Baltimore last night.
"Always this season, we've had no luck," said Dallas midfielder ,, Kevin Smith. "But in this game, we were the fortunate ones. Everyone played his guts out. The key was team defense won us this game."
It was a strange game. All 11 goals were scored in the first half. At one point the two teams combined for four goals within 1:39 of the second quarter, as Tatu (two goals, one assist) scored for Dallas and Richard Chinapoo, Domenic Mobilio and Billy Ronson scored for the Blast to forge a 4-4 tie. When Mobilio scored again, for a 5-4 lead, it was four Blast goals within 2:22.
After that Terry Woodberry ambushed Blast goalkeeper Scott Manning, for a 5-5 tie with 7:14 still to play in the half. Four minutes later, Beto picked his way through the box for the last goal of the night.
It was enough to inspire Cooper to bench Manning (seven saves on 17 shots) for backup Hank Henry (seven saves on 10 shots) in the second half, "because we had to do something."
The game was simply a microcosm of the season. The Blast played terrible defense, giving up those six first-half goals, but still managed to lose by only one goal. During the season, the results have been similar: 12 one-goal losses, a 19-21 record, yet the Blast still is within two games of first-place Cleveland.
"I think Dallas played as well as they're capable of playing," said Ronson. "But it's up to those of us who are healthy to perform. There are 12 games to go. It's simply a question of sticking together. It's no good hiding now."
The Sidekicks could have hid. They have some team unrest. They are in the midst of acquiring new ownership. And they know that no matter what happens down the stretch, the playoffs are not in sight.
"We're simply playing for our jobs now," said Tatu. "It's the bottom line. We do it and do it now or we won't be here."