Blast Shut Down SharX
By Andrew Primrose
On Friday night, before a crowd of 5,764 fans on mini-soccerball night at the 1st Mariner Arena, the Baltimore Blast beat the Norfolk SharX, 18-10. Backup goalkeeper and Loyola Blakefield alum Akira Fitzgerald was strong during his first career home start, stopping three penalty shootouts, and the Blast moved one step closer to locking up the Eastern Division.
The Blast looked fantastic during the first quarter with Carlos Garcia, Machel Millwood and J.T. Noone scoring to give them a 6-0 lead that was much more dominant than the score indicated. Baltimore enjoyed a 2-1 advantage in time of possession and peppered the Norfolk goal throughout the quarter.
Mike Lookingland added a second-quarter goal to extend the lead to 8-0 before the SharX scored their first goal against Baltimore during more than 74 minutes of game time, stretching back to their last matchup, on a strong touch from Matthew Delicate, leaving a halftime score of 8-2.
The Blast looked as if they would come out strong during the second half, when Max Ferdinand scored only 31 seconds into the third quarter, but Norfolk claimed the momentum when it scored the next two goals. Miguel Ferrer tallied a three-point goal and Tennant McVea added a two-point goal to close the Blast lead to 10-7.
Faced with an inspired SharX team, and a game that was much closer than it should have been, Blast rookie Noone answered with his second goal of the night and left Baltimore with some breathing room heading into the fourth quarter.
The Blast and SharX were playing their third consecutive game against each other and the familiarity bubbled over during the fourth quarter. In a bizarre sequence at the 3:15 mark, Norfolk's Andrew Marshall and Baltimore's Fitzgerald were called for simultaneous penalties that left Norfolk with a penalty shootout.
Fitzgerald appeared to make the save on the play, but Blast defender Stephen DeRoux was called for a tripping penalty, which resulted in a second consecutive shootout. Fitzgerald again stepped up for a big save on the shootout and the Blast were able to kill off the rare 4-on-3 power play. Each team would be awarded three penalties during the fourth quarter.
The SharX earned their third shootout of the quarter on a foul called on Blast forward Adauto Neto at the nine-minute mark, but once again Fitzgerald was able to make the save. Cecil Lewis did score a SharX three-pointer on the ensuing power play, but Lookingland tallied his second goal of the night during the 10th minute to clinch the 18-10 victory.
As one Blast official remarked leaving the field, "It wasn't always pretty, but it was a win."
The Blast return to action Jan. 28 to host the Rochester Lancers. Saturday is military appreciation night at 1st Mariner Arena and the Blast players will take the field in military-themed jerseys that fans can bid on throughout the game.
Posted Jan. 28, 2012