For the sixth time this season, the Blast had the chance to improve its record to better than .500. But Baltimore came up short, losing in overtime, 8-7, to the St. Louis Storm yesterday at the Arena.
"This kills you," Blast defender Doug Neely said. "We just let them win it. We had our chances, but we didn't get it done and we're starting to run out of time."
It was another high-scoring game, in which the Blast and Storm took turns in the lead. It was a game in which the crowd of 8,343 could get caught up.
But when St. Louis defender John Klein took a rebound off the boards with 1:04 gone in overtime and high-kicked it into the back of the net for the winning goal, more than one Blast player felt responsible.
Klein simply felt blessed.
"My eyes opened real wide," he said. "I was just in the right place at the right time."
For the Blast, an 8-7 loss is less than a work of art. The team, after all, has been built on defense.
"We let in some bad goals," Blast defender Iain Fraser said. "Now we've got to go out and win our next three. We've just got to put away our chances."
One that got away came less than a minute into overtime, when forward Rusty Troy (two goals, one assist) found himself with the ball in the box, facing an empty net. He shot, but somehow, from out of nowhere, St. Louis defender Mark Frederickson blocked it.
"We were looking at these four home games as a chance to go two over .500 before we hit the road," Troy said. "Now we have to win here next Sunday, just to get back to .500."
Midfielder Kevin Sloan (one goal), who played hard all day, barely missed the game-winner in regulation when his shot caught the crossbar. Forward Rod Castro did the same.
Fraser, an All-Star defender, had his hands full with Preki (two goals, three assists) in the second half.
Preki, a midfielder whom Blast coach Kenny Cooper describes as the Magic Johnson of the game, made Fraser virtually ineffective with a series of moves that ended with a cross-court shot for a 7-6 St. Louis lead with 7:07 to play.
The Blast saw leads of 3-1 and 4-2 disappear, and added to the Storm's rally when defender David Eise inadvertently scored for the Storm.
Eise was attempting to pass the ball to goalkeeper Cris Vaccaro and out of trouble, but the ball took an unexpected bounce off the carpet, and Eise's foot got farther under it than he had anticipated.
He watched helplessly as the ball sailed over Vaccaro and into the net for an "own goal." It allowed St. Louis to begin a rally from a 3-1 deficit.
"It was a fluke and it was disappointing," Eise said. "But we still should have won the game."
The Blast had more than enough chances, as did St. Louis. But as Cooper pointed out, the Blast seems to suffer from each of its misdeeds.
"We're still fighting our 1-4 start of the season," Cooper said. "We're constantly fighting it. It keeps staring us in the face. Right now it's the difference between being in second and being in fourth place."
NOTES: Scott Manning, formerly of the Blast, said last night that he is keeping his options open in regard to the Wichita goalkeeping job. The position became available Saturday night when the Wings' Kris Peat injured his left arm in a loss to the Blast . . . The next Blast home game will be Sunday at 4:05 p.m. against the Crunch. It was scheduled originally for 6 p.m. There are 3,000 tickets available. . . . The college all-stars begin arriving today for Thursday's USAir College Indoor Showcase, which will be held at 5:05 p.m. and be followed by the MSL All-Star Game at 8 p.m. The MSL stars begin arriving tomorrow.