For much of its season opener Friday night, the Blast was simply baffled, thanks to Chicago goalkeeper Jeff Richey and a stubborn Riot defense.
Things changed with a sudden 18-second spurt in the third quarter, however. And it turned out to be the difference.
Newcomer Worteh Sampson and Max Ferdinand answered the Richey riddle with goals 18 seconds apart, providing the Blast with the needed cushion to come away with a 10-6 Major Indoor Soccer League win over the Riot before an energized crowd of an announced 8,116 at 1st Mariner Arena.
Sampson was brought in to do just what he did in the third quarter, collecting an entry pass from Mike Lookingland with his back to the goal, turning and firing from 10 yards to give the Blast its first lead at 6-4 with 7:09 left in the third quarter.
As the public address announcer was crediting Sampson with his first goal as a member of the Blast, Ferdinand fired to the top right corner to give the home team an 8-4 lead.
"[At] halftime, we talked about some things and just got back to basics, doing the little things well, and in the second half I thought we kind of played how we want to play," Blast coach Danny Kelly said. "Sampson scored a big goal for us — he was creating some problems for them — and then Max, with his individual ability, he scored a big goal. And we kind of settled down at that point. Those two goals were huge for us."
The rest of the way, the Blast protected its lead, possessing the ball much of the time and marking tight when it didn't have the ball. Forward Machel Millwood added an insurance goal, his second of the game, midway through the fourth quarter to push the lead to 10-4.
"Goals can come real quick in this game," Millwood said. "Chicago frustrated us a lot, especially in the first half. I think we probably had three times as any shots as them, but we just couldn't put it in the back of the net. We've been practicing four weeks together, we know each other well and it was the first game, so it was just a matter of getting out the kinks as far as what we have to do to score goals and win games."
The Blast had an early idea that goals would be hard to come by, peppering 15 shots at the Riot goal in the first quarter and watching Richey make save after save — eight in the period and 15 for the game.
The home team did manage to get one past Richey in the first — a goal in front from Millwood 5:54 into play that offset an early goal from Chicago's Edward Santeliz. The teams were tied at 2 through the first quarter.
Santeliz notched his second goal of the game with 9:27 to play in the half to make it 4-2 before the Blast again tied it on Giuliano Celenza's goal — which gave him his 400th career point for the Blast — with 39 seconds left for a 4-4 halftime score.
Chicago 2 2 0 2—6
Blast 2 2 4 2—10
Scoring: 1. Chicago, Santeliz, 2 pt., 1:48; 2. Blast, Millwood, 2 pt., (Garcia), 5:54.
Penalties: Chicago, Kletzien, (holding), 2:03.
Scoring: 3. Chicago, Santeliz, 2 pt., 5:33; 4. Blast, Celenza, 2 pt., (Healey), 14:21.
Scoring: 5. Blast, Sampson, 2 pt., (Lookingland), 7:51; 6. Blast, Ferdinand, 2 pt., 8:09.
Scoring: 7. Blast, Millwood, 2 pt, 6:58; 8. Chicago, Mesanovi, 2 pt., Degand, 14:57
Shots on goal: Chicago 5-5-1-5—16; Blast 15-4-16-3—38.
Goalie saves: Chicago, Richey 8-0-6-1—15; Blast, Sagu 2-2-0-0—4.
Power-play opportunities: Chicago 0-for-0; Blast 0-for-1.