Billy Ronson crashed Jean Harbor's party Saturday night at the Baltimore Arena.
Harbor made his much-anticipated home debut for the Baltimore Blast and pleased his fans by scoring a goal, but it was Ronson who did the most damage to the St. Louis Storm.
Ronson scored three goals to lead the rejuvenated Blast to a 7-5 victory over the Storm, giving Baltimore its fourth straight win and breaking a scoring drought for Ronson.
In the previous 18 games dating to last season, Ronson had had just two goals and five assists.
The dry spell began when Ronson was asked by coach Kenny Cooper to become more of a defensive than attacking midfielder, a move that Cooper hoped would help break the team out of a second-half slump.
Ronson led the Blast in scoring most of last season before winding up third with a career-high 35 goals and 33 assists.
But the Blast's last-place finish and failure to make the playoffs for the first time in its 11-year history left a lot of scars on Ronson.
Many of those were still showing Saturday night, even though Baltimore had improved its record to 5-4 and continued to move toward the top of the Major Soccer League standings.
"I scored 35 goals last season and we didn't make the playoffs, so what did it mean?" said Ronson. "I'm going to be 35 in January and I want to win a championship before I retire [Ronson signed with the Blast two seasons after the team won its only championship, in 1984]. Scoring goals doesn't mean anything unless we win a championship."
Ronson's third goal was a blistering shot from 35 feet off a pass from Doug Neely 7 minutes, 44 seconds into the fourth quarter. It gave the Blast a 7-4 lead after Branko Segota had scored two straight goals to rally the Storm from a four-goal deficit.
Harbor had given Baltimore the 6-2 margin at 1:53 of the fourth quarter on a goal that showed the skills that made him Most Valuable Player in the outdoor American Professional Soccer League last summer.
Harbor, who had 17 goals and 11 assists for the Maryland Bays, dribbled the ball right around St. Louis defender Greg Muhr and delivered a line drive from the top of the arc outside the penalty box past goalkeeper Slobo Ilijevski.
Harbor leaped after scoring his first MSL goal and displayed the wide grin that has endeared him to his Blast teammates.
Harbor has one goal and two assists for the Blast, which is 3-0 since he signed two weeks ago.
Before getting the goal, Harbor came close to scoring two other times in the first three quarters, even though he had trouble keeping his shoe on. But after getting the shoe taped on by trainer Marty McGinty, Harbor was all over the field.
Cooper said: "Jean wants to learn and the players have welcomed him with open arms. He gives us another dimension. We now have three strong lines that can run. We also know that Jean's going to score."
Harbor, who has just three indoor practices behind him, said he was "very fortunate" to score in his first game at the Arena.
"I know I had chances to score more, but I'm content with one goal," said Harbor. "That is OK with me. I'm happy for so many people who believe I can do the job here. I'm trying my best and know that it is more important that we play as a team than anything I do personally."
He added: "One tree does not make a forest. We need the help of everybody. The other guys are helping me a lot and are very patient with me."
NOTES: St. Louis coach Don Popovic said Ilijevski "made some mistakes" in the net in the first half when the Blast jumped to a 4-1 lead. "Also we had the other mistake [Mark Santel's pass was intercepted by Emil Dragicevic, who scored Baltimore's fourth goal] that cost us," said Popovic. . . . It seemed as if the sight of Waad Hirmez playing for the Storm psyched up Ronson, who didn't exactly get along with Hirmez during his short stint with the Blast. "Let's just say now we have a team where everybody runs and fights for each other," Ronson said. Hirmez, who had one assist after just signing Saturday morning with the Storm, would not be drawn into controversy with any of the Blast players. But he did say: "I can feel a little hate from some of their players. But I hold no grudges. It's a dead issue."