Body language told the story long before San Diego's Paul Wright broke through for two goals to lead the Sockers to a 6-3 victory in Game 4 of this Major Soccer League semifinal series.
When Sockers forward Thompson Usiyan scored on a power play for a 2-1 lead with five minutes to go in the first half last night, the Blast sagged. It had battled to tie things up 1-1 on a goal by Iain Fraser, and then, just like that, the Sockers were ahead on a power play.
Fraser, his hands on his hips, looked at midfielder Kevin Sloan and heaved a huge sigh. It was like seeing the first crack in a carefully constructed wall.
After playing the Sockers nail-to-nail for three games, the Blast gave way to the San Diego pressure as 4,458 fans watched at the Arena.
Instead of continuing to play a deliberate style that limited San Diego's speed, the Blast opened up its game and dared to run with the Sockers.
Baltimore now finds itself down 3-1 and within a game of elimination from this best-of-seven series, which continues tomorrow night at the Arena.
The Sockers wasted little time putting this one away in the second half. They stretched out to a 6-1 lead by the end of the third quarter and then stood up to the Blast's rough-house sixth-attacker offense in the fourth quarter.
Blast midfielder Doug Neely received a red card and automatic ejection for three penalties in one game, with 3:34 to play.
Aside from Fraser's goal, only two shots by Rusty Troy, the second with just two seconds left in the game, eluded San Diego goalkeeper Victor Nogueira, who made 23 saves on 40 shots, many of them at point-blank range.
With 1:43 gone in the third quarter, Jacques Ladouceur flicked a header over Blast goalkeeper Cris Vaccaro for a 4-1 lead. Then SanDiego defender Kevin Crow, who had the game-winner Tuesday, made it 5-1, when he took a pass from Tim Wittman and beat both Fraser and Domenic Mobilio at the far post.
Wright then scored his second goal of the night. It was a 50-footer on San Diego's third power-play opportunity, as Wittman screened Vaccaro from the shot.
It was Wright who had started the San Diego scoring, by putting away a 60-footer with four seconds left on a power play in the first quarter, to give San Diego a 1-0 lead.
The Blast finally tied the game 1-1 in the second quarter, on the slowest rolling ball this side of a 10-pin lane. Jean Harbor headed the ball to Fraser with 8:32 on the clock, and the Blast defender stretched his right leg as far as he could to get his toe on the ball and push it on a slow crawl 20 feet into the net.
The Sockers followed by scoring with their second power play. Thistime it was Usiyan's header that set the stage for the Blast's demise.
Paul Dougherty gave San Diego a 3-1 lead with 1:56 left in the half, when he ran through the box and redirected a pass from Usiyan into the net.