Blast Regain Home-Field Advantage
By Andrew Primrose
The Blast improved to 10-3 and won their fifth straight game with an 8-5 victory against the Rochester Lancers Saturday night at the 1st Mariner Arena in front of a crowd of 5,835. Baltimore completed a dominant Hall of Fame weekend home stand with a win that was not as close as the final score indicated. The win also leveled off the Blast's home record at 3-3 after an 0-3 start.
While the story of Friday night's win against Syracuse was all about the 21 points of offense, Saturday's story revolved around defense. The game opened with a scoreless first quarter before the Blast added two second-quarter goals to take a 4-0 halftime lead. Adauto Neto scored his fourth goal of the weekend before Carlos Garcia scored on a nifty back-heeled flip off of a Machel Millwood restart to record his third goal of the home stand.
The Blast halftime Hall of Fame ceremony lasted more than 30 minutes and left both teams running in the tunnels of the arena to keep their legs warm. The approach seemed to work for the Lancers, when Rochester's leading scorer, Mauricio Salles, scored a three-point goal 11 seconds into the third quarter to cut the Blast lead to 4-3. Faced with their first taste of adversity during the weekend, the Blast picked up the defensive intensity and forced a turnover only two minutes later that lead to Neto's second tally of the night and a 6-3 lead for the home team.
Warren Ukah would add another score early during the fourth and the Blast defense continued to dial up the pressure. Late during the fourth quarter, Neto looked to have completed a hat trick for the second straight night, with a three-point goal on a rocket from just inside the yellow line, but the score was disallowed on a three-line pass call on the assist from goalkeeper Sagu. Replays showed that the call was incorrect, because Neto contacted the ball before the yellow line but even without those extra points the Blast where able to survive a Lancer sixth attacker goal with 33 seconds left during the game to clinch the 8-5 win.
During Saturday's halftime Hall of Fame night ceremony, former players Dan Counce and Rusty Troy were inducted into the club's Hall of Fame and Blast owner Ed Hale was recognized for his inclusion as a charter member of the MISL Hall of Fame.
Counce, the first player ever signed to a Blast contract, played four seasons for the original Blast and also served as an assistant coach and worked in the front office. A forward and defender, Counce was a player/coach during the 1983-84 championship season and ranks 18th on the original Blast's all-time scoring list with 94 points in 117 games during four seasons (1980-84).
Upon joining the organization, he became a key member of the club's early community relations campaign that helped spread the word of indoor soccer throughout the Baltimore area. After retiring as a professional player at the completion of the 1983-84 season, Counce returned to the Blast before the 1986-87 season to serve as the team's vice president and general manager.
During Counce's first season as GM, the Blast went 33-19 and Counce was part of the Blast front-office team that increased corporate advertising and sponsorship, revamped and increased the team's promotional appearance schedule and brought several All-Star-caliber players to Baltimore. The Blast advanced to the postseason every season Counce was in the front office and twice advanced to the championship game (1989 and 1990).
Troy, who spent four seasons with the original Blast and two seasons with the Baltimore Spirit, was the Blast's first pick in the 1988 college dispersal draft. He was named MSL Rookie of the Year in 1989 after recording 15 goals during his first professional season.
Troy ranks 12th on the original Blast's all-time scoring list with 128 points in 185 games during four seasons. As a defender and a forward, he recorded 44 points during the 1991-92 season, while serving as team captain. During two seasons with the Spirit, Troy accumulated 189 points and still ranks 20th on the current team's all-time points list.
The Blast return to action at 7 p.m. Jan. 12 with a game at Norfolk. That game, along with all other Blast games this season, will be broadcast live at misllivesoccer.com.
Posted Jan. 8, 2012