Just staying alive is the name of the game in the topsy-turvy Major Soccer League, and the Blast is playing it to perfection.
The 10,285 in the Baltimore Arena yesterday got their money'worth, when, for the second time in three days, the Blast rallied to beat the Dallas Sidekicks in what has become a game of sudden death.
The MSL playoffs are waiting for four teams. The San DiegSockers and Dallas are in. The Cleveland Force and Wichita Wings are almost in. And the Blast, thanks to yesterday's 5-3 victory, is hanging on with one regular-season game left, Saturday night at home against the Tacoma Stars.
"We're keeping our hope alive," said Blast forward DomeniMobilio. "Maybe it will all fall into place."
The Blast (18-21) remains on the endangered list. Clevelan(19-19), which beat the St. Louis Storm yesterday, 10-4, and Wichita (18-20) would eliminate the Blast if both win Friday night.
Baltimore would beat out Cleveland if both teams finish with the same record, but not Wichita, because the Blast won the season series against the Crunch but lost to the Wings.
"We're doing our job," said Blast goalkeeper Cris Vaccaro, who stood up to a four-shot barrage in the third quarter, with Dallas ahead 2-1. "That's all we can do. We win and hope for the best. It's just a matter of fate now."
But yesterday, it was a matter of intensity. When Dallas took 2-1 lead in the third quarter on a goal by David Doyle (two goals, one assist), the Blast regrouped for the final quarter.
"They had to have the greater intensity because they still havsomething to play for," said Dallas coach Gordon Jago, whose team has clinched second place. "We were doing enough to win, but then they got the power-play goal and that made all the difference."
Mobilio ran into the box at the perfect time to head a pass froIain Fraser into the net for a 3-3 tie.
And then, a minute later, Jean Harbor came down the left side othe field and collided with Dallas defender Jeff Agoos just as the ball arrived at his left foot.
As Harbor fell back, he saw Dallas goalkeeper Hank Henry comout of the box.
"I knew then I had the advantage," Harbor said. "I just got mfoot on the ball and hit it."
The ball flashed into the net, giving the Blast a 4-3 lead with 7:0gone in the fourth quarter. Seven minutes later, defender David Eise wrapped up the victory by whipping a 70-foot shot past Dallas' Richard Chinapoo into the empty net for the final 5-3 margin.
"I came here to help this team win," Eise said. "And we won thgame. I'm glad I could help. But this was just a game, not the battle. The battle is getting into the playoffs. We're all trying to work together to make it. I wish we were in a better position, but the good thing is that while we've got a lot of injuries, a lot of guys are stepping up."
It was team captain Rusty Troy (two goals) who kept the Blast in the game early. And it was fine defensive work by Fraser and Emil Dragicevic on Tatu (one goal) that kept the team in it late.
"I'm not thrilled with where we are," Troy said. "But I'm happy we're winning again. It's tough to have to sit around and wait for another team to decide our fate, when if we'd have won just one more of those overtime games, we'd be looking at 20 victories and in control."
NOTES: The Blast learned yesterday it will be without AlKazemaini (partial tendon tear in bottom of foot) for the rest of the season. He joins Billy Ronson on the injured list. According to MSL rules, a team can add a player to the roster after it is frozen if two players are injured. The Blast will look at Diego Castro, 31, brother of Rod Castro, this week. Diego Castro has 15 goals and 16 assists in a four-year, 76-game MSL career that began in 1982. He has played for Chicago (1982-83), Dallas (1985-86) and Wichita (1986-87 and 1990-91). The Blast will talk to the league office to verify all rules today and approach the 5-foot-9 midfielder today or tomorrow.
Dallas..... 1... 1... 1... 0... --... 3
Baltimore.. 1... 1... 0... 3... --... 5