It took a half Saturday night for the Blast to play the top-notch style of indoor soccer it had displayed throughout the 2012-13 Major Indoor Soccer League season, but it was worth the wait for the home team.
Overcoming a shaky start, the Blast relentlessly attacked the goal against the Missouri Comets to overcome a halftime deficit in the second game of the MISL Championship Series.
After Adriano Dos Santos scored in the fourth quarter and rookie Lucas Roque followed shortly after with another goal, the Blast was able to confront the Comets' final stand with its signature defense to come away with an 8-6 win and a two-game sweep in front of an announced 8,704 at 1st Mariner Arena.
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"They've been tremendous all season long, only five losses, and a couple of those we probably could have won," coach Danny Kelly said. "Tonight, facing adversity in the first half and not finishing our chances. … But we came out in the second half, finished some chances, played some better defense, and it was just a tremendous night for us to win the championship in front of all our fans."
The Blast, which finished in first place with a 21-5 record in the regular season and opened the championship series with a 21-12 win at Missouri on Thursday, started the season with nine straight wins and finished with 11 in a row to capture the city's seventh professional indoor soccer championship.
Under its current management, led by owner Ed Hale and general manager Kevin Healey, the Blast has won six titles since the 2002-03 season.
Rookie goalkeeper William Vanzela, who finished with 12 saves and five while protecting the fourth-quarter lead, earned Most Valuable Player honors.
Trailing 4-0 at the half, the Blast came out energized in the third quarter and determined to close out the championship.
Max Ferdinand might have scored the team's most important goal of the night, chesting down a pass from Mike Looking-
land and burying a shot that ended a more than 33-minute scoring drought for the home team. The power-play goal cut the Comets' lead to 4-2 with 11:16 left in the third quarter. After Tony Donatelli tied the game with 1:11 left in the third, on another power play, the Blast carried the momentum into the fourth quarter.
Dos Santos, standing on the right side of the net, one-timed a pass across from Lookingland that found the far post for the Blast's first lead at 6-4 with 11 minutes to play. Roque, a rookie who emerged as one of the team's top scoring threats, followed with a dynamic bicycle kick for an 8-4 lead with 7:01 left. His goal proved to be the game-winner after Comets forward Byron Alvarez scored his third of the game with 5:39 remaining to cut the lead to 8-6.
Vanzela and the Blast defense took care of the rest. Vanzela made two saves in the closing minutes, and the Blast handled the Comets' extra attacker for the final 1:51.
"I think we took a little too much pressure on ourselves. Playing at home with the one-game lead, we were playing not to lose the game instead of trying to win the game in the first half," Lookingland said. "But in the second half, I think we kind of settled in a little bit and started to dictate the game, which is something we should have done in the first half. But it's understandable playing in front of 9,000 fans — puts a little pressure on yourself."
In front of the big crowd with the championship in sight, the Blast appeared anxious to start Game 2. In the first half, the home team was not getting to the ball first, was not efficiently connecting on passes and none of its 15 shots found the mark.
Alvarez opened the scoring for the Comets when, left unmarked on the left side, he took a pass from Cristiano for an easy goal and a 2-0 lead with 5:02 to play in the first quarter.
Midway through the second quarter, the Blast again let a Comets player get behind its defense when Leo Gibson broke free and Max Ferdinand dragged him down. With Ferdinand penalized for pushing, the Comets were awarded a shootout attempt that Alvarez calmly buried in the right corner for a 4-0 lead.
Missouri 2 2 0 4 -- 8