Blast ends road hex, beats Cleveland, 6-3

November 24, 1991|By Doug Sherwin | Doug Sherwin,Special to The Sun

RICHFIELD, Ohio -- When the Baltimore Blast prepared to visit the Cleveland Crunch yesterday afternoon, history was not on its side.

But the Blast (3-4) ended a seven-game road losing skid by overcoming a 3-0 halftime deficit and defeating the Crunch, 6-3.

Before yesterday, Baltimore hadn't won on the road since beating the Stars, 5-4, in the Tacoma Dome last March 12.

The last time the Blast won a road game by more than one goal was Feb. 23, 1990.

And the last time that Baltimore won in Cleveland was in April of that year.

But, with the help of four fourth-quarter goals and the successful debut of Jean Harbor, all of that ended before 5,106 at Richfield Coliseum.

"It's great to get a road win and a win in Cleveland obviously," coach Kenny Cooper said. "We beat San Diego last week and now we beat Cleveland, two very explosive teams.

"The key was at halftime, we felt we were in the game. The key number in indoor soccer is five. If you're down by five at the half, then it's over. Three goals is nothing."

For the Crunch, no lead is safe. Cleveland has been outscored 26-13 in the second half this year and 18-5 in the fourth quarter alone. Earlier in the season, the Crunch let a 6-2 halftime lead against Wichita slip away, losing 7-6 in overtime.

This time it was the Blast who administered the second-half schooling and Harbor, the MVP of the American Professional Soccer League last summer, was one of the reasons.

The 26-year-old Nigerian was part of a third line that Cooper installed in the second half after going with two lines in the first.

"We wanted them [Cleveland] to work hard in the second half," Cooper said. "We wanted to change the tempo of the game. We wanted to get them out of the comfort zone they were in. We needed to play defense instead of just playing offense."

Harbor, who was playing in his first indoor game ever, first saw action at 1:40 of the second quarter after Cleveland had taken a 3-0 lead on a goal by Andy Schmetzer.

"It's a little bit tough," Harbor said of his new sport. "You have to keep up with your man. I usually have an offensive mind. I have to adjust and think defensively now. Stamina-wise, I have to keep up. I'm at about 50 percent."

With only two days of practice, Harbor assisted Mark Mettrick 4 minutes, 15 seconds into the second half for Baltimore's first goal.

"Jean originally was coming to watch," Cooper said. "But players have to know you have confidence in them and I have confidence in Harbor. When I put in that third line it helped turn the game around.

"Harbor's still learning and developing. I figured he didn't pay for a ticket so I might as well play him."

Goals by Rod Castro and Mike Stankovic tied the game at 3 midway through the fourth quarter.

Then Iain Fraser scored his third goal of the year when Cleveland failed to clear the ball in front of Crunch goalie P.J. Johns with 4:11 remaining.

Blast goalkeeper Cris Vaccaro, who assisted on Stankovic's goal after making a difficult save, got a score of his own when the Crunch went to a sixth attacker. His goal made it 5-3 and effectively ended any comeback hopes for Cleveland.

"I give credit to the guys in front of me," Vaccaro said. "They worked so hard. This was my best game of the season. P.J. [Johns] played so well and I told my guys not to get frustrated." Vaccaro ended the game with 12 saves and Johns had 18.

Cleveland got its first goal when Chris Szanto rammed in a free kick from Zoran Karic at 4:10 of the first quarter.

Cleveland then capitalized on a power play with Rudy Pikuzinski scoring.

"I attribute [the letdown] to our own failings," Cleveland coach Trevor Dawkins said. "They didn't do anything differently, we did. We didn't need defenders playing in front of forwards."

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