This was the greatest moment of Mark Mettrick's four seasons with the Baltimore Blast, and all he could do was lower his head, smile a little and walk to the bench.
Maybe Mettrick needs a little practice on how to react to the lead role.
That was the pleasant predicament Mettrick faced last night after he scored three goals for the first time in his Major Soccer League career, leading the Blast to a 9-4 victory over the Dallas Sidekicks at the Baltimore Arena before 10,090.
Mettrick was mobbed by his happy teammates 7 minutes, 43 seconds into the fourth quarter when he completed the hat trick with a flip shot from the left side of the penalty box for an 8-3 lead.
"I guess it was a big surprise for them to see me score three goals," said Mettrick. "I don't really know why or care all that much why they did it, to tell you the truth. But it was a nice feeling."
In keeping with his low-key approach to the game, Mettrick said: "A blind man could have scored three goals with the chances I had in this game. The ball just kept bouncing right to me in front of the goal."
The Mettrick show gave the Blast (10-10) its second straight win at home and moved the team within one game of third-place Dallas (11-9). Baltimore had lost three straight at the Arena before defeating the St. Louis Storm last Saturday night.
A crowd of 11,692 watched the win over the Storm, making it the first time since March 1990 that the team has had back-to-back crowds of more than 10,000.
"We needed to give the crowd a good show, because we won't be back until Feb. 1 against the Tacoma Stars," said coach Kenny Cooper. "We won because we played four quarters of tight defense on Dallas and got great play out of our six midfielders."
Mettrick was one of those six midfielders as he continues to move between the midfield and defender positions this season, depending on where Cooper needs help.
"Mark seemed almost embarrassed to get a hat trick," said Cooper. "It's unbelievable how hard he has worked for four years and been willing to stay in the background."
Newcomer Ali Kazemaini said of Mettrick: "He's so modest."
Domenic Mobilio, who came to the Blast with Mettrick four seasons ago, said it was great to see an unsung player get a hat trick.
"Every player wants to score three goals some time in their career," said Mobilio, who scored his 22nd and 23rd goals of the season. "He had to wait four years for it but I'm sure it was worthwhile."
Joe Koziol joined in the Blast scoring show with two goals, and Jean Harbor and Iain Fraser had one goal each.
Fraser also held Tatu in check with one goal and one assist.
NOTES: The tallest player in the history of the MSL -- 6-foot-6 Derek Missimo of the Sidekicks -- made his league debut last night. Missimo, a fourth-round Dallas draft pick last summer, signed a developmental contract yesterday with the Sidekicks. Missimo is a product of Bedford, Texas, and the University of North Carolina. There have been four 6-4 players and four 6-3 players in the 14-year history of the league. . . . Blast owner Ed Hale said that he has even turned his fourth-grade teacher at Edgemere Elementary school, Millie Edling, into a Blast fan. Edling and her husband, Jim, traveled from Michigan City, Ind., to Baltimore to see last night's game. "I also used to baby-sit for them," said Hale. . . . Desmond Armstrong, a member of the U.S. national team who played for the Blast in the 1988-89 season, became the fourth former Blast player last night to be honored at the Arena this season. Armstrong starred at Howard High and the University of Maryland.
Dallas .. ..2 .. 0 .. 0 .. 2 ..4
Baltimore.. 1 .. 3 .. 2 .. 3 ..9
First quarter--1. Dallas, Beto 7 (Tatu), 2:54; 2. Baltimore, Koziol 12 (Castro), 4:10; 3. Dallas, Scott 10 (Snyder), 9:05. Penalties--none.
Second quarter--4. Baltimore, Harbor 3 (Neely), 6:23; 5. Baltimore, Fraser 7 (Kazemaini), 11:09; 6. Baltimore, Mettrick 8 (Koziol), 11:31. Penalties-- Dallas, Henry (intentional handball), 7:20 (served by Doyle).
Third quarter--7. Baltimore, Mobilio 22 (Neely), 8:10; 8. Baltimore, Mettrick 9 (Fraser), 13:16. Penalties--none.
Fourth quarter--9. Dallas, Tatu 27 (McLeod), 1:53; 10. Baltimore, Koziol 13 (Troy), 5:19; 11. Baltimore, Mettrick 10(Mobilio), 7:43; 12. Dallas, Beto ( Uremovich), 9:11; 13. Baltimore, Mobilio 23 (unassisted), 12:49. Penalties--none. Shots on goal--Dallas 7-2-3-10--22. Baltimore 8-9-7-5--29. Saves--Dallas, Henry 10, Smith 0. Baltimore, Vaccaro 7. Referees--Herb Silva, Marty Templin, Paul Tamburino. A--10,090.