BALTIMORE – Less than 24 hours after beating Milwaukee in the Central Division championship game, the road-weary Missouri Comets saw their 21-game winning streak come to an end.
The Baltimore Blast had two goals to the Comets’ one in the second half to claim a 6-4 (two points per goal) victory in Game 1 of the Major Arena Soccer League Eastern Conference Championship Series at Royal Farms Arena.
To keep their season alive, the Comets must defeat the 19-2 Blast in a 3:05 p.m. game Sunday at the Independence Events Center and then win the 15-minute mini game to advance to the Ron Newman Cup Final Series against the winner of the Las Vegas-Monterrey series.
Missouri took an early 2-0 lead when MASL All-Rookie team defender Alain Matingou scored a short-handed goal off an assist from Bryan Perez at 12:51 of the first quarter.
Late in the second quarter, Baltimore’s Adriano Dos Santos scored the equalizer to make the score 2-2 going into halftime.
With less than four minutes to go in the third period, Baltimore’s Defender of the Year finalist Pat Healey found Tony Donatelli near the net and he pushed the ball past Missouri goalkeeper Danny Waltman to give the Blast a 4-2 lead.
The Blast extended the lead to 6-2 when Lucas Roque notched his first goal of the playoffs.
Following that goal, Defender of the Year nominee John Sosa entered the game as a sixth attacker. At the 11:24 mark, MVP nominee and MASL scoring champion Leo Gibson headed the ball past William Vanzela to make it 6-4, but the Comets could not come up with a game-tying goal in the closing minutes.
“We have to come back strong Sunday,” said team captain Vahid Assadpour, who assisted on Gibson’s goal. “We have to use our fans as the sixth attacker and come out strong. They are a great defensive team, and we have to find a way to score more than two goals.”
Following Thursday night’s 8-2 win over the Milwaukee Wave in Independence, the Comets drove to St. Louis and arrived at 3:30 a.m. They got four hours of sleep, flew to Memphis, where they had a 1 1/2-hour layover and finally arrived in Baltimore a few hours before the game.
“Two games in less than 24 hours is very demanding,” Assadpour said, “but we are not going to use that as an excuse. We played hard, we just didn’t win. We have to win both games Sunday.”
Defender of the Year nominee Brian Harris agreed.
“We leave Baltimore early Saturday and have the whole day to rest for Sunday’s game,” Harris said. “We’re not going to use the travel as an excuse. This loss just fires up even more for Sunday’s game.”
With one goal and one assist Donatelli was named Man of the Match.
Tickets in all price ranges remain for Sunday’s game.
“We’ve never needed our fans like we’re going to need them Sunday,” Harris said. “We haven’t lost at home all season and we want to keep that streak alive, and they can help us do it.”