SAN DIEGO -- Speed, confidence and the leadership of San Diego midfielder Brian Quinn took their toll on the Blast last night, but the bottom line difference was best expressed by goalkeeper Cris Vaccaro.
"It's San Diego's speed," said Vaccaro. "It's execution. We're not executing. There is no excuse for what's happening. It's very simple, when you make mistakes -- mental or physical -- you're going to pay for it in this game."
It was homecoming for Waad Hirmez and Rod Castro, former Sockers now with the Blast. And it was the first time in 10 years Baltimore native Tim Wittman played in this Sports Arena not as a member of the visiting Blast.
But it was the Blast's inability to control the pace combined with the uncanny playmaking of Quinn and the blinding speed of Paul Wright that wore out the Blast, 7-2.
"They had the night of their lives and we had the nightmare of ours," said Castro. "We had a nightmare, but they had a lot to do with it."
For some reason, when the Blast gets keyed up for the Sockers, circumstances nearly always combine to make the Blast look bad. Certainly, last night was no exception.
A mental lapse with about two seconds left in the first quarter allowed Terry Woodbury to make a two-line pass to Paul #F Dougherty, who found Quinn in the box for a go-ahead goal with one second left.
Then, 10 seconds into the second quarter, Jacques Ladouceur took a pass from Wright to make it 2-0.
"We were out there giving the ball away at bad times," said Blast midfielder Billy Ronson. "We can't afford to do that. We're in a fight. If we don't start fighting back soon, it'll be too late."
By halftime, Wright and Ladouceur had teamed up again, with Wright scoring for a 3-0 lead. When Dougherty re-directed a 55-foot shot by Quinn past a sprawling Vaccaro to make it 4-0 in the third quarter, it looked like a wrap.
"They were flying right down our throats from the tip," said Blast defender Mark Mettrick.
San Diego played with confidence, speed and control. The Blast, when pushed to high speed, showed little control, taking just 17 shots, nine of which were saved by Sockers keeper Victor Nogueira.
"I think anxiety to do well took its toll," said Blast coach Kenny Cooper. "I told them before this game, it's accountability and results that count. The reality of being 1-4 is setting in."
Cooper said he will shake things up at practice this week, preparing for a rematch with the 2-2 Sockers at the Baltimore Arena Saturday.
Goals by Domenic Mobilio and Mike Stankovic made it 5-2 early (( in the fourth. And when the Blast went to the sixth attacker, the momentum seemed to shift, until Ben Collins managed an open-net goal for a 6-2 lead and John Kerr scored his first MSL goal for the final margin.
"We had some good chances," said Mobilio. "We had two power-play opportunities that could have made a difference. We're trying hard . . . . But we've got to get the job done and not."
Though the last-place Blast's performance was ugly, it is doubtful a good performance would have made much difference last night. A crowd of 10,293 were on hand and the Sockers were pumped.
"Quinny was on fire," said San Diego coach Ron Newman. "Quinny just controlled everything. They just couldn't control him."
In fact, while the Sockers were being led by Quinn and Wright, two players who missed the preseason, the Blast, which started training camp a week earlier than any other MSL team, looked as if its players had never met before last night.
"Overall, we're just a whole lot faster than those guys," said Wright, after his two-goal performance. "I mean, we knew that we were just a better team."
Wright, who told the Blast he wouldn't play for less than $60,000, seemed content, even though he's making $40,000 back with San Diego. "This is my home," he said. "I've played here two years. Yeah, I'm relieved I'm playing here and not for the Blast."
Aside from its old buddy Wright, perhaps most frustrating for the Blast was that it knew exactly what San Diego would do, and still lost. It has seen Quinn before, both Cooper and defender Iain Fraser used the same words to describe him, "He's the best player in the league," they said. But when it came to stopping him, the execution wasn't there.
"It's all peaks and valleys," said Quinn. "We're not going to play like this all season and neither is the Blast."
Wittman refused to gloat.
"It feels good to win," he said. "But I've been where they are. I'm not going to say anything. They came back at one point . . . it's still early in the season."
But as the dejected scene in the Blast's locker room suggested, it's getting later all the time.