Bodies and words were flying last night. Neither the Blast nor the Wings wanted to let this one get away. Especially not the Blast.
Only last Sunday, Baltimore had played with composure and intensity against this same Wichita team. But, last Sunday, the Blast lost, 5-4, in double overtime.
Last night, it wanted a different ending. Last night, the Blast wanted to win, and it did, 8-5.
But it wasn't until Mark Mettrick scored back-to-back goals midway through the fourth quarter to give the Blast a 6-4 lead that either team look destined to lose.
"When we got to the fourth quarter tonight, we simply forgot to play defense," said Wings coach Roy Turner. "When you do that against a very disciplined team like the Blast, you're going to pay the price for it, and we did. I apologize to Scott [Manning, goalkeeper] for the way the defense played in front of him here."
Manning, who was with the Blast for 10 years, was making his first appearance here as a member of the Wings. The good news for Manning is that Turner renewed his contract for another 15 days yesterday.
By the time Blast defender Doug Neely and forward Domenic Mobilio added two more goals, the Blast had roughed up Manning and the Wings considerably.
The Blast victory combined with the Wing's loss creates a three-way tie with Cleveland for third place in the Major Soccer League.
Intimidation might have been in the game plan, last night, but the MSL made sure the officials weren't the ones intimidated.
Before the game, MSL commissioner Earl Foreman and deputy commissioner John Borozzi met with referees Julio Salas, Joe Manfre and Bill Lohr.
"In light of the article in [yesterday's] paper, we wanted to be sure we were all on the same page," said Borozzi, in reference to a story in which Blast coach Kenny Cooper strongly criticized the league's officials. "We simply reaffirmed their [the officials] responsibilities. You know the saying, an ounce of prevention . . . ."
Rusty Troy started the second half with a goal, when Billy Ronson picked off a pass from Wing Terry Rowe, and passed it to the Blast forward for a 4-2 Blast lead 42 seconds into the third quarter.
Wings forward Dale Ervine countered with a power-play goal, which bounced into the net off Troy, and tightened things up at 4-3.
When Blast goalkeeper Cris Vaccaro tried to clear the ball early in the fourth quarter, Chico Borja picked off his pass and drilled it back at him from about 100 feet to tie the score at 4.
In the early going, it seemed the Blast would face another frustrating evening. Defender Emil Dragicevic hit the cross bar. Midfielder Joe Koziol had a point-blank shot saved by Manning.
And then Ronson was given a two-minute penalty for misconduct.
All of that happened before Wing Steve Pittman used his left foot to give Wichita a 1-0 lead with 5:54 to play in the quarter.
Set plays have frustrated the Blast much of this season, and that was the situation when Ervine passed to Pittman at the top of the box and the defender set a bullet inside the right post.
Wichita 1 1 1 2 -- 5
Baltimore 0 3 1 4 -- 8
First quarter--1, Wich. Pittman 20 (Ervine), 9:06. Penalties--Ronson, Bal., (Misconduct) 6:34.
Second quarter--2, Bal. Harbor 5 (Neely) 1:57; 3, Bal. Castro 15 (Neely) 8:47; 4, Bal. Mobilio 29 (Fraser), PP, 11:33; 5, Wich. Ervine 37 (Borja), PP, 12:46. Penalties--Borja, Wich., (Tripping) 10:05; Koziol, Bal., (Kicking) 12:26.
Third quarter--6, Bal. Troy 15 (Ronson) :42; 7, Wich. Ervine 38 (Byrne) , PP, 6:40. Penalties--Neely, Bal., (Boarding) 4:55.
Fourth quarter--8, Wich. Borja 23 (unassisted) 1:21; 9, Bal. Mettrick 15 ( Castro) 2:23; 10, Bal. Mettrick 16 (Vaccaro) 5:03; 11, Bal. Neely 5 (Castro) 8:11; 12, Bal. Mobilio 30 (Kazemaini) 9:26; 13, Wich. Borja 24 (Pena), sixth attacker, 11:40. Penalties--None.
Shots on goal--Wichita 7-4-8-12--31; Baltimore 6-15-8-9--38. Saves--Wichita, Manning 14, Byrne 1; Baltimore, Vaccaro 15. Referees--Julio Salas, Joe Manfre and Bill Lohr. A--6,194.