The Blast cemented its hold on first place in the Major Indoor Soccer League on Friday night with a hard-earned 14-10 victory over the Omaha Vipers at 1st Mariner Arena.
It was the sixth consecutive win for the Blast (12-3), which can go a long way toward clinching the regular-season title Sunday by beating second-place Milwaukee. Baltimore leads the Wave, which plays the Chicago Riot on Saturday night, by a game.
Omaha (7-10) didn't make it easy. It wasn't until veteran Pat Morris scored his second goal with less than four minutes remaining in regulation that the outcome was all but assured. The Vipers pulled goaltender Sanaldo and went to the sixth attacker thereafter, but it was to no avail.
The turning point in a close match came early in the third quarter with Blast forward Carlos Garcia in the penalty box for a holding infraction. Little more than a minute later, Robbie Aristodemo tapped in a short-handed goal off a feed from Machel Millwood to give the Blast a lead that was never relinquished.
"That always peps your group up when you put a goal on their power play," Blast coach Danny Kelly said.
"That's especially so since our man down [play] hasn't been the best this season."
Longtime Philadelphia KiXX defender Morris passed two milestones (200 goals and 500 points) in the game, making the Blast look wise for signing him when the KiXX folded just before the season started.
"It's a pleasant surprise to me," Morris said. "I never really set any goals, but it shows my career has gone pretty well. I probably would have looked for something else to do if the team hadn't folded so close to the start of the season. Baltimore was the only place I would have considered playing. It's been great so far. We've won a lot more than we did my last two seasons in Philadelphia."
Said Kelly: "Pat has been invaluable to us, a huge addition. He's a very smart defender."
The Blast got off to a slow start, falling behind 4-0 before hitting its stride, a fact Kelly attributed to rustiness after an idle weekend. "We gave up some easy goals early and didn't play very well in the first half, but we found a way to win," he said.
Omaha played without Chile Farias, a former Blast player who was leading the league in scoring when he was waived last week along with goalie Jose Bontti. The Vipers signed Sanaldo to replace Bontti, and he helped keep them in the game with 14 saves. Sagu had 10 for the Blast, including three in a row in the fourth quarter that maintained the lead.
O 4 4 2 0—10
B 2 6 4 2—14
Goals: 1. Omaha, Moojen (Quiroz), 6:13; 2. Omaha, Moojen (Brunt), 7:38; 3. Blast, Lookingland (Gonzaga), 10:53. Penalties: None.
Goals: 4. Blast, Celenza (Garcia), 1:38; 5. Blast, Morris (Millwood), 4:56; 6. Omaha, Hernandez (Sanaldo), 6:33; 7. Moojen (Ayegbusi), 13:08; 8. Blast, Wilkes (Neto), 13:26. Penalties: O, Junge (holding), 7:51.
Goals: 9. Blast, Aristodemo (Millwood) (shorthanded goal), 3:57; 10. Blast, Gonzaga (Ukah), 6:03; 11. Omaha, Torres (penalty kick), 9:44. Penalties: B. Garcia (holding), 2:38; B, Ukah (kicking). 9:43.
Goals: 12. Blast, Morris (Garcia), 11:03. Penalties: None.
Shots on goal: Omaha 15, Blast 21.
Saves: O—Sanaldo, 14; B—Sagu 10.