ST. LOUIS -- To put it bluntly, the Blast has not had much success away from home this season.
Heading into last night's Major Soccer League game, the Blast was looking for its first road win of 1992. The team had dropped seven straight on the road (and hadn't won away from home since late December).
But coach Kenny Cooper's club might have found the right combination for road success: hard work and smart play.
After spotting the Storm a 3-0 lead, Baltimore worked its way back to tie the game late in the third quarter, then won it, 4-3, on Domenic Mobilio's head ball into the Storm net at 9:30 of the fourth quarter.
The victory, the Blast's first in St. Louis this season, helped keep Baltimore's playoff hopes alive. Baltimore, 15-17, is tied for third in the MSL with the Tacoma Stars. St. Louis (12-20) is in last place and virtually out of the race for the fourth and final playoff spot.
"This is a humongous win, a gigantic win," Cooper said. "We've been here in St. Louis for three days preparing for this, and we got what we came for. We had to have this game, or we would have been in a very big hole."
Jean Harbor, Rod Castro and Rusty Troy had the other Baltimore goals, and Cris Vaccaro got the win in goal after missing the past two games with a virus. Daryl Doran, Branko Segota and Preki had the St. Louis goals.
After allowing St. Louis to take a 3-1 halftime lead, the Blast played like a different team in the second half. Baltimore outshot the Storm 8-2 in the third quarter. Castro put the Blast back into the game at the 13:04 mark when he scored his 17th goal of the season from in front, off a pass from Mark Mettrick. That goal came after the Blast had kept a rebound in the St. Louis end.
Just 1:33 later, the Blast got the equalizer by again bottling up the Storm in its own end. After a scramble in front, the ball came to Troy and he booted it in off the Storm's Doran. The third period ended in a tie at 3.
Each team had several scoring chances in the final period. The Blast's winning goal came off a free kick, which Billy Ronson centered to Mobilio in front. He headed it past the Storm's Jim Gorsek. "It's a set play where two guys decoy and I run for the post," Mobilio said. "I cut through and Billy Ronson hit me with a perfect pass."
The Blast withstood a final charge from the Storm to hang on for the win.
"You have to give them credit, but I think tonight it was more us than them," Storm coach Don Popovic said. "We had a 3-0 lead and blew it. We had some chances to put it in and make it four or five and we didn't do it."
It didn't take long for the Storm to test Vaccaro. St. Louis took six shots in the first quarter and scored twice.
Just more than five minutes into the game the Storm was awarded a free kick in front of the Blast box. As Preki lined up to kick the ball, Vaccaro ran up to become part of the wall in front of the goal. The strategy backfired, though, when Preki got the ball to Doran at the left of the box, and he nudged it in at the 5:32 mark to begin the scoring.
A little more than four minutes later, the Storm added to its lead thanks again to a Baltimore penalty. Preki was pulled down on a breakaway by the Blast's Iain Fraser, resulting in a shootout. Segota converted for his 42nd goal of the year and a 2-0 St. Louis advantage.
It could have been worse, but Vaccaro was able to stop Preki on a another breakaway with 1:50 left in the quarter.
However, the former Tacoma star got even early in the second quarter. He scored his 38th goal on a deflection from the left wing that made it 3-0 Storm 2:35 into the second quarter.
The Blast's lone goal of the half also came off a shot from the wing. Ali Kazemaini centered the ball from the right corner to Jean Harbor, and he shot it past Gorsek at 9:13 to cut the St. Louis advantage to 3-1.
"We just battled in the second half," Cooper said. "This was like a playoff game for us. The key for us was shutting them out. To hold them to three goals overall in St. Louis is a minor miracle."