Bodies and words were flying last night. Neither the Blast nor the Wichita 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 team. But last Sunday, the Blast lost, 5-4, in double overtime.
"This time we wanted to make sure there were no excuses," said Blast forward Domenic Mobilio. "This is a great feeling. We turned in a solid performance. We used our speed and caught them on counterattacks. And we kept digging throughout the game. This is how we have to play."
Last night, the Blast won, 8-5. The victory, combined with the Wings' loss, creates a three-way tie for third place in the Major Soccer League.
Baltimore, Wichita and the Cleveland Crunch are 14-15 heading PTC into the last 11 games of the season.
"We had to win," said Blast defender Mark Mettrick. "When it got to 4-4, well, you don't panic, but we were in a dire situation."
With the score tied, the Blast found a go-to guy -- Mettrick.
Hustling up the right side of the field, Mettrick picked up a loose ball and scored from 20 feet for a 5-4 lead with 2:23 gone in the fourth quarter. He scored again 2 1/2 minutes later, when he shook free of defender Steve Pittman, whirled and fired.
"The first goal," Mettrick said, "I just whacked it. The second one, I just whacked it again."
Only then did either team looked susceptible to losing.
"When we got to the fourth quarter, 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 in the Arena as a member of the Wings. Last night, he made 14 saves, and Cooper said that if Manning hadn't been there, "we would have had 12 goals."
Manning's record slipped to 1-4. Turner, however, said he is not unhappy with his play, adding, "We renewed his contract for another 15 days today [yesterday]."
After Mettrick's two goals, defender Doug Neely and forward Domenic Mobilio added two more to guarantee the victory.
"This is the kind of passion we have to play with," said Blast Kenny Cooper. "It's basically playoff time now. If you're going to sit back and wait to play in the playoffs, you're not going to get there."
Before the game, MSL commissioner Earl Foreman and deputy commissioner John Borozzi met with referees Julio Salas, Joe Manfre and Bill Lohr to discuss their roles in last night's game.
"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 . . . "