After all the controversy had subsided at the Baltimore Arena on Saturday night, midfielder Rod Castro seemed to best express the feelings of the Baltimore Blast.
"There was a lot of emotion out there. I never played harder in my life," said Castro. "They [the San Diego Sockers] had embarrassed us out there. It was time to show them we are a team to be reckoned with."
Castro's power-play goal with seven seconds gone in the third quarter ignited a four-goal run that wiped out a 5-3 lead and carried the Blast to a 8-7 victory over the seven-time Major Soccer League champions.
The Castro goal came after Baltimore (2-4) hung in the game in the second quarter.
San Diego (3-3) was ahead, 5-3, when Ben Collins had a one-on-one shootout against Blast goalkeeper Cris Vaccaro 9 minutes, 53 seconds into the second quarter. Collins got around Vaccaro but hit the crossbar with his shot.
After that, the Sockers had two-man and one-man power-play advantages but couldn't score.
Domenic Mobilio (four goals) and Joe Koziol (two goals, one assist) led the Baltimore offense and seemed to be oblivious to all the controversy surrounding the return of Tim Wittman to the Baltimore Arena for the first time since he signed with San Diego and the release of Blast midfielder Waad Hirmez.
As expected, several of Wittman's hometown fans showed up with signs. One of those signs touched off controversy in the stands.
Drew Forrester, Blast vice president of soccer operations, ordered a sign removed that said: "Keep Wittman. Trade Hale."
Wittman was not re-signed after 10 seasons following a run-in with Blast owner Ed Hale at a team meeting in March.
After the game, Wittman expressed shock and dismay over Forrester's order to remove the sign.
"It's a joke," said Wittman. "I never heard of anything like that. It's a free country and fans are allowed to express themselves toward a player."
If Wittman was a loser on the field Saturday night against the Blast, he was a winner off the field Friday in his $6,200 grievance against Baltimore under the injury protection clause.
MSL Players Association director John Kerr said yesterday that he and Blast attorney Jim Gast came to an agreement before the case reached arbitrator George Nicolau.
Kerr said that Wittman "got all of his money and was happy as he could be. They offered him $5,000 but he said, 'No,' and held out for the full amount."
Wittman said: "I'm glad it's over. All I ever wanted was what was due to me."
Forrester said of the $6,200 award to Wittman: "Throughout last week, the players and the entire organization focused on winning the game on Saturday. If Timmy won the grievance, that's the way it goes. We won the game, and that was our first and foremost goal."
NOTES: Eight hours after Hirmez was released Saturday, the Blast signed Maryland Bays F Jean Harbor, who is expected to become a force as a target man. Harbor, who has been involved in off-and-on again negotiations with the Blast since late September, said Baltimore "came up a little" with its financial offer and he will take a leave of absence from his job as a chemist in Rockville. Harbor will not be able to join the team for practice right away because he wants to give his employers 2 weeks' notice. But he is expected to work out on his own and accompany the team to Cleveland on Saturday for a 1:05 game against the Crunch. . . . Hirmez said he will file a grievance against the Blast because they released him while he has a knee injury. He said that violates the collective bargaining agreement between the players association and the league owners. Forrester said that Hirmez was cleared to play Friday by Blast doctors after an MRI test came back negative.