The Blast struggled mightily to score last night and nearly suffered an embarrassing defeat against the worst team in the Major Indoor Soccer League.
But in the final 70 seconds, after going nearly 22 minutes without a goal, the Blast scored twice to pull out a dramatic, come-from-behind, 6-5 victory over the California Cougars - and got the benefit of a controversial play to make it happen.
Blast forward Giuliano Celenza scored on a breakaway goal with 1.6 seconds left to stun the last-place Cougars before 3,211 at 1st Mariner Arena. Celenza's heroics capped a wild comeback by the Blast, which overcame a 6-for-33 shooting night and a 5-4 deficit after pulling goalie Sagu with just under two minutes left.
First, forward Adauto Neto (two goals) scored from the left wing with an assist from defender Danny Kelly - inserted as the sixth attacker - to tie the game at 5 with 1:10 left. Then, with the clock winding down in regulation, the third-place Blast (10-6) appeared to catch a break before handing the Cougars (1-16) their crushing loss.
With about 15 seconds remaining, California forward Vincente Figueroa got loose down the middle with the ball and headed straight for the goal. As he was about to shoot from just inside the box, Blast forward Lee Tschantret caught Figueroa from behind and appeared to shove him to the turf as he sent the ball to defender Ibrahim Kante.
Kante started a two-on-two break with an outlet pass to midfielder Robbie Aristodemo, who found Celenza open on the left wing. Celenza dribbled in a few feet, then won the game with an 8-yard shot that rolled through the legs of California goalie Jim Larkin.
"I think we got lucky tonight. Sometimes it takes a little luck to win in this game," Celenza said.
The Cougars were furious. They argued with officials for several minutes after the final horn sounded, claiming that Tschantret had committed a pushing foul on Figueroa.
"I think we played one of the best teams in the league tonight in their building and outplayed them," said Cougars coach Troy Dayak, who would not comment on the critical no-call. "It's just an awful way to end the game."
Tschantret capped a busy night by forcing the game's biggest turnover. He started by assisting Celenza on the game's opening score as the Blast took a 2-0 lead, then made it 4-2 seven minutes into the second half on a goal by Joel Bailey.
Tschantret then found himself in the goal for nearly the final three minutes of the third quarter after Sagu (15 saves) committed a pushing foul. Tschantret made two saves but also allowed a goal by midfielder Richardinho that tied the game at 4 with three minutes left in the period.
As for his play against Figueroa, who had given California its first lead at 5-4 on a high, 22-yard shot with 8:12 left in the game, Tschantret said: "That's one [call] that could go either way. I thought I got all ball. [The Cougars] played well. They're starting to put it together. It was desperation for us."
California 1 1 2 1 - 5
Blast 2 1 1 2 - 6
First quarter: 1. Blast, Celenza (Tschantret) 2:26; 2. Blast, Bascome (Celenza) (PPG) 7:30; 3. Cal, Tovar (Ball) 8:44. Penalties: Garcia, Blast (kicking), 4:27. Sedgewick, Cal (Holding), 6:53. Second quarter: 4. Blast, Neto (Garcia) 7:28; 5. Cal, Susi (Ball) (RSG) 14:31. Penalty: Regis, Blast (tripping), 7:49. Third quarter: 6. Blast, Bailey (Millwood) 6:57; 7. Cal, Figueroa (Sutton) 8:41; 8. Cal, Richardinho (PPG SOG) 12:00. Penalties: Nelson, Blast (tripping), 11:05. Sagu, Blast (pushing), 11:57. Fourth quarter: 9. Cal, Figueroa 6:48; 10. Blast, Neto (Kelly) 13:50; 11. Blast, Celenza (Aristodemo) 14:59. Penalties: Abolaji, Cal (boarding), 2:20. Bench (Bartolome), Cal (too many men), 8:30. Figueroa, Cal (dissent), 14:59. Tschantret, Blast (dissent), 14:59. Shots-on-goal: California 7-5-11-5-28; Blast 10-2-6-15-33. Penalty kick conversions: California 0 of 0; Blast 0 of 0. Shootout conversions: California 1 of 1; Blast - 0 of 0. Power-play conversions: California 1 of 4; Blast 1 of 3. Goalies: California : Jim Larkin (18, 12, 6, 60:00) Blast : Sagu (19, 15, 4, 56:19) Lee Tschantret (3, 2, 1, 2:58) Danny Kelly (0, 0, 0, 0:43). A: 3,211. Officials: Kelly Mock, Adam Wienckowski, Jeff Gontarek.
Wave@Blast Tonight, 7:35, 680 AM