SAN DIEGO -- It took most of the game, but the San Diego Sockers finally solved a disciplined, organized defensive effort and turned it into a 6-3 victory over the Baltimore Blast at the San Diego Sports Arena last night.
A pair of fourth-period goals just 20 seconds apart by Sockers defensive forward Wes Wade iced the Major Soccer League game. Blast coach Kenny Cooper had rolled the dice by switching to a sixth attacker (Billy Ronson) with 7 minutes, 14 seconds left and the Sockers ahead by 4-2.
Who messed up defensively?
Probably several players, but Cooper cited midfielder Rod Castro and pulled him off the field. After the game, the coach kept his squad sequestered in the locker room for 20 minutes.
The loss dropped Baltimore's record to 10-12, with a trip to England for an exhibition match Jan. 29 against the Sheffield Wednesday team next. The Blast doesn't resume MSL competition until Feb. 1 at home against the Tacoma Stars.
"We're just not scoring goals, and you have to to win," said Cooper, whose club has lost nine of its past 11 games against the nine-time indoor champions. "Making the good final pass is hurting us. We had two great wins [before Friday's 10-2 loss in Dallas], and now it's one step backward.
"The sixth attacker has worked well for us tactically in the past. At 4-2, I wanted a goal, then [goalie] Cris Vaccaro goes back in. This season's been a project."
The Sockers, who won 9-8 in overtime Saturday night in Wichita, then traveled back to San Diego yesterday morning, opened the scoring at 3:40 of the first period. Thompson Usiyan's 12th goal of the season came off a 28-foot bender that caromed in off the left post. Blast marker Mark Mettrick gave Usiyan too much space, and his team paid the price.
The Blast tied the game at 1-1 a little more than six minutes later. Former Socker Castro cashed in a sequence that began with Ali Kazemaini's pass across the goal mouth to Mettrick. Mettrick's right-footer was stopped by San Diego goalkeeper Victor Nogueira, but Castro one-timed the rebound into the top of the net.
At 10:28 of the period, San Diego went ahead, 2-1. After a re-start after a foul on Kris Kelderman, Kevin Crow headed a rebound of his shot to fellow defender Alex Golovnia, whose 40-foot shot caught Vaccaro flat-footed.
Iain Fraser tied it again 2:29 into the second period. Nogueira gloved a shot by Castro, but failed to collect the ball, and Fraser lifted the carom into an empty net. Castro nearly gave his team the lead later in the period, working a steal behind the San Diego red line, but he shot wide left with a soft 20-footer.
The first half was an improvement over the opening 30 minutes logged by the Blast in Dallas, where the Sidekicks led by 6-0 at halftime and pulled away from there.
Weak in short-handed situations on the road (12 power-play goals allowed in 18 attempts), Baltimore even improved that statistic by killing a penalty on Mettrick in the first half.
The 2-2 score held for more than 22 minutes, until Usiyan scored on a 15-foot shot with 5:15 left in the third period.
Crow began the sequence with a pass through midfield to Quinn, who redirected the ball off the end boards and to Tim Wittman. The Blast alumnus (1981-91) got enough leg on the spinning ball to flick it wide left for Usiyan to finish and take San Diego to the final 15 minutes with a 3-2 lead.
"The first half," Cooper said, "we were right where we needed to be. I expected a low-scoring game. San Diego had been in a high-scoring one the night before."
Except for Rusty Troy's goal with 1:28 left, Nogueira (11 saves to Vaccaro's 16) kept the losers off the board for the final 32 1/2 minutes.