Maybe it wasn't perfect, but the Baltimore Blast couldn't complain last night, after holding on to a 7-4 victory over the St. Louis Storm.
The Blast came into this game with a shopping list of goals, and achieved nearly all of them.
The goals: Get Major Soccer League newcomer Jean Harbor untracked. Fit former All-Star midfielder Ali Kazemaini into the lineup. Play four quarters. And, most importantly, win at home.
Harbor responded with a goal and an assist to get things started. Kazemaini scored. And the Blast held off a fourth-quarter rally by the Storm for a home-field victory before 11,692, the largest crowd to witness a Blast game since March 24, 1990.
"This was one of the biggest wins we've had," said Blast midfielder Billy Ronson, who had two goals last night, including the seventh one, which kept St. Louis at bay in the fourth quarter.
The Storm was in the midst of a rally, when Blast goalkeeper Cris Vaccaro (17 saves) stopped a strong shot by Preki and set up the fast break to Domenic Mobilio that ended in Ronson's goal and a 7-3 lead.
"We had lost three straight, and we hadn't won at home in front of a big crowd this season," said Ronson. "It would have been unthinkable to lose four straight."
Blast coach Kenny Cooper went to the microphone at the end of the game, thanked the fans for turning out and invited everyone on to the field for a 20-minute "meet the players" session.
"You were the difference," Cooper told the crowd. "You made it happen."
With the win, the Blast (9-10) secured its hold on fourth place while St. Louis (6-10) dropped ever closer to the basement.
"This game was very important for us," said St. Louis coach Don Popovic. "We have to start winning. But our chemistry is not great and we were dead tired in the first half while the Blast put everything they shot in the net. Their guys can run all day long.
A week ago in St. Louis, the Storm was ready for the road-weary Blast. Last night, it was the Blast lying in wait for St. Louis which arrived in town at 2 a.m. yesterday after spending 23 hours in transit from a tournament in Switzerland.
"There are no excuses," said St. Louis' Preki. "It took us awhile to get going, but mostly it was just that everything they shot went in."
After Harbor's goal, defender Emil Dragicevic and Mobilio raised the score to 3-0, before St. Louis responded with a second-quarter goal by Branko Segota, who would wind up the night with a hat trick.
Kazemaini, who signed Friday, notched his first Blast goal and started another Blast string of scores before halftime. Rod Castro scored what turned out to be the game-winner on a shootout and Ronson made it 6-1 off an assist from Harbor.
The shootout was set up by a tripping penalty on St. Louis midfielder Waad Hirmez, who had the ball stolen from him by Mobilio and then responded by pushing him in the back on his way to the goal.