The high-scoring Cleveland Crunch turned to defense and Michael King last night to halt the streaking Baltimore Blast.
The Crunch, known for its offense more than anything else, frustrated Domenic Mobilio and his Blast teammates on the way to a 5-4 victory before 7,025 at the Baltimore Arena.
King, who usually plays in the shadows of Crunch scoring stars Zoran Karic and Hector Marinaro, scored four goals to end the Blast's four-game winning streak.
"Lately we've been trying to outscore opponents," said Cleveland midfielder Kai Haaskivi. "And it hasn't worked. Tonight we played unbelievable team defense. We were so well-organized that we could stop everybody on their team, not just Domenic. This is the kind of game we need to play."
Despite all the defense, Cleveland (3-7) would have been lost without King, who nearly came to the Blast twice in recent months -- first as a free agent in the off-season and the second time in a trade.
Baltimore (5-5) had made King what it thought was a good offer last summer, but the Crunch matched that offer to retain the midfielder this season.
"Michael King is a tremendous all-around player," said Blast coach Kenny Cooper of his efforts to get King. "He can do a lot of things."
King said he may have been a little extra psyched up for last night's game "because of all the stuff that happened in the off-season."
"It was nice to be wanted," said King. "But my family and I are
happy in Cleveland. I was on a roll tonight, and when that happens, you feel you can score any time you shoot the ball. I've been in a dry spell and all good scorers know they are going to break out of them some time."
King had scored only three goals in the previous nine games this season.
The Cleveland victory also ended Jean Harbor's magic run in a Blast uniform.
Baltimore had won all three games in which Harbor had played since signing three weeks ago. He had one goal and two assists in those three games.
But last night, the Maryland Bays outdoor star never got off a shot and played very little in the second half after struggling some in the first half.
Cooper said: "We went to two lines in the second half because it worked. There are going to be times when that happens."
Harbor plays on a third line with Emil Dragicevic and Kevin Sloan.
Cooper said: "Jean knows what he has to do and he is still learning. Our whole team couldn't get into sync tonight. I think maybe we were feeling a little too good about ourselves after winning four games in a row."
Mark Mettrick led the Blast with two goals and Rod Castro had three assists.
Castro said: "We didn't play very smart. We had trouble finding our shape all night. Our forwards were dropping back too much, and a lot of other things weren't going well for us. We gave up the three goals in the first half [3-1 Cleveland lead] and never really recovered."
Mettrick and Joe Koziol scored goals early in the third quarter to tie the game at 3, but the Blast couldn't follow up that quick second-half start with any more goals until Mike Stankovic scored with one second left in the game.
Opponent: Dallas Sidekicks
Site: Reunion Arena, 8:35
Radio: WCAO (600 AM)
Outlook: This is the Blast's first trip to Reunion Arena this season. Dallas, led by F David Doyle's 3 goals and Kevin Smith's 3 assists, defeated Baltimore, 7-3, in the MSL season opener at Baltimore Arena. Former Blast M Richard Chinapoo scored 6 goals and had 2 assists in his first 7 games for Dallas this season. The Blast had to travel to Dallas today after meeting the Crunch in Baltimore last night.