In the same building where they celebrated their MISL Championship nearly a year ago, the Missouri Comets suffered their first loss of the 2014-2015 season. Three different players scored for the Baltimore Blast as they take Game One of the MASL Eastern Conference Championship by the score of 6-4.
After a convincing win against the Milwaukee Wave in the Independence Events Center last night, the Comets drove across the state to St. Louis. There, they had a short rest before boarding an early flight across the country into Baltimore. The Comets were determined to not let the short rest and hectic travel effect their game.
Arguably, the MASL's two best teams. Baltimore and Missouri played to their strengths early in the game. The Blast relied on their #1 rated defense to hold the Comets high powered offense in check for nearly the entire opening quarter.
With less than five minutes remaining in the 1st quarter, the Comets Leo Gibson was sent to the penalty box for holding. The Blast's power play was short lived, though as goalkeeper William Vanzela was caught with a hand ball outside the penalty box. Back at even strength, the Comets Bryan Perez found Alain Matingou in front of the net. The rookie's sneaky backheel shot found the back of the net and gave the Comets a 2-0 lead (under the Multiple Point Scoring system).
The Comets controlled play through most of the second quarter, but the Blast's defense held strong. Adriano Dos Santos was finally able to get past Danny Waltman and even the game just before halftime. Tied at 2-2, Game One of the series was living up to the hype as both teams went into the break with a successful first 30 minutes of play.
Missouri has faced diversity earlier in the season, but what's kept them undefeated was their ability to work through the difficulties with mistake-free play and taking advantage of any opportunities that presented themselves.
Tonight, whether it was the fatigue or the hectic travel or another factor altogether, the team was unable to avoid easy mistakes. As the Blast picked up the pressure, Waltman and his defense had difficulty clearing their defensive zone. When they did, the Blast were able to find quick counter-attacks.
With a little over three minutes remaining in the third quarter, Pat Healey launched a long pass across the field to a streaking Tony Donatelli who had a step on his defender. Waltman did well to cut the angle on Donatelli's first shot, forcing it wide. Unfortunately, Donatelli's second effort was just enough to collect the rebound and knock another sliding shot into the goal.
The veteran midfielder followed up that effort with an assist to Lucas Roque early in the fourth quarter, giving Baltimore a 6-2 lead over the visiting Comets.
In the waning moments of the game, the Comets pulled Waltman for a sixth attacker and Leo Gibson scored his second goal of the playoffs. Down 6-4, Missouri tried to amp up their pressure for an equalizer, but exhaustion appeared to have set in and their efforts fell short.
Missouri finally gets a short rest as Game Two isn't until Sunday afternoon at 3pm in the Independence Events Center. The Comets will have to win that game plus the resulting 15 minute Mini-Game that afternoon if they hope to advance to the MASL Championship.It took 363 days, but a team was finally able to hand the Missouri Comets their first loss since 2014.