A miracle on Baltimore Street, that's what the Blast players said they were hoping for, and as the 10,519 fans in the Arena alternately sang, chanted and cheered, the Blast concluded a two-day series of events that seemed miraculous.
A 7-2 victory over the Tacoma Stars last night qualifies the Blast for fourth place in the Major Soccer League standings and the last playoff spot in the postseason tournament.
"If you believe enough, anything can happen," said Blast coach Kenny Cooper. "It was a matter of things falling into place, and they did. Tonight, this team was incredibly focused and very serious before the game."
The Blast will play the MSL regular-season champion Sockers in San Diego on Wednesday and Friday, and then return to the Arena for games April 14 and 16 and, if necessary, April 18 in the best-of-seven series.
A two-goal burst within 13 seconds in the third quarter gave the Blast a 6-2 lead that propelled it to victory. And solid fourth-quarter defense that held off Tacoma's sixth-attacker offense for 9:09 guaranteed it.
By the time Iain Fraser scored into an open net with 1:33 to go, the fans were dancing in the aisles.
"We knew what we had to do and we were only able to do half of it," said Tacoma defender Ralph Black. "Baltimore came out buzzing and we were concerned about how we would play [having played in Cleveland the night before]. But give the Blast credit. For a young team they really put out. They deserved to win."
It was the third-quarter burst that did Tacoma in. It began with Domenic Mobilio, the team's Most Valuable Player, colliding with Tacoma's Greg Ion at midfield and jarring the ball loose from the Stars defender. Rod Castro picked up the ball and with Mobilio sped away on a two-on-one break. At the top of the box, Castro made a perfect pass and Mobilio drove it home for his third goal and a 5-2 lead.
Moments later, Jean Harbor passed to Fraser to the right of goal, and Fraser slammed the ball off the boards and the face of Tacoma keeper Mike Dowler and into the net for the 6-2 advantage.
"We were in it at halftime," Tacoma coach Keith Weller said. "But those two quick ones, well, we had to do something then and we couldn't."
The Stars went to the sixth attacker with 9:09 left in the fourth quarter, but could not penetrate the Blast's defense.
It really was the stuff from which dreams are made. The Blast was looking at what appeared to be an impossible climb into this postseason party.
It not only needed to win this game against Tacoma coming into this weekend, but it also needed for the Cleveland Crunch and the Wichita Wings to lose its games Friday night.
NOTES: D Doug Neely was voted the winner of the Mike Reynolds Unsung Hero Award. . . . Tickets for the Blast's three home playoff games go on sale tomorrow morning . . . Tacoma F Dale Mitchell (injured right knee) will have an MRI tomorrow. . . . Billy Ronson suited up for last night's game but did not play. He is expected to be ready by Friday at the latest.