Fans of the San Diego Sockers, Baltimore Blast, and Harrisburg Heat will have no answers to their claim that their Dad can beat up their rivals’ Dads after a rockin’ threesome this weekend in the MASL. On Friday the Sockers beat the Heat 7-5. Saturday the Blast beat the Sockers 9-5. Sunday the Heat beat the Blast 7-4, leaving all three teams 1-1 for the weekend.
Saturday the Blast played perhaps their best game of the season, drubbing the Sockers in a redux of a rivalry that dates back to 1982.
But in the PASL/MASL era, this was only the third meeting between the teams and the first since 2015. The win got the Blast back over .500.
“It’s always a good game against the Sockers,” said Blast forward Vini Dantas after Saturday’s game. Goalkeeper William Vanzela was the unquestionable 1st Star of the game, but Dantas led the Blast offense with three goals and an assist. “We have to keep on this note. We can’t afford a good game, bad game. We gotta get out there and do it again.”
Sunday posed a new challenge. Despite Friday’s loss, the Heat came in to the game 13-4 at home since the beginning of last year.
Unlike Saturday’s game where the Blast never trailed, Baltimore would never get the lead Sunday in Harrisburg.
After a scoreless first quarter, the Heat took a 1-0 lead due to Patrick Thompson’s dogged persistence in winning a series of 50/50 balls and finally feeding a pass to Jerjer Gibson, who chipped the ball past Vanzela.
Then the Tavoy Morgan Show began. Morgan picked off an errant touch by Adriano Dos Santos and streaked 150 feet, tying Dos Santos and Victor France in knots before slotting the ball under Vanzela to make it 2-0.
Later in the quarter, with the Heat on a 3-on-2 break, Thompson’s pass to Morgan was off the mark, but with two defenders on him, Morgan corralled the ball, took a touch, and then roofed the ball over Vanzela from deep in the corner to make it 3-0.
Knowing the Blast, you almost expected a late goal to swing the momentum before the half, and Dantas did just that, taking a long restart pass from Dos Santos, spinning on Nelson Santana, and unleashing a left-footed rocket into the far upper corner with eight seconds left in the half to cut it to 3-1.
The Blast started the third quarter with a Dos Santos blast that was saved by a diving William Banahene, a Jonatas Melo cross that was parried away by Banahene only to have the rebound sail over the empty net, and then Juan Pereira’s shot off the post moments later. Thompson then made a big block on a restart chance, but at 2:47 his pass was deflected by Dantas to France, who found pay dirt, going in for an unabated goal to cut the Heat lead to 3-2.
At 3:14 Dantas scored a restart goal, from Melo, when his shot from the corner went through Banahene’s legs to tie the score. Banahene hit his head on the boards during the play and had to be removed from the game to get checked out under the league’s concussion protocols. Jesus Molina came in and the game resumed after a three minute delay. Banahene returned about four minutes later, and the Blast would not score again in the quarter, but neither coach saw that as a turning point in the game.
“It’s a long game, there’s ups and downs, it’s indoor soccer,” said Heat Head Coach Pat Healey. “Some games there’s momentum swings, but no.”
The Heat took the lead back for good when William Eskay converted a Daniel Villela pass at the 8:38 mark of the third quarter to make it 4-3.
The fourth quarter brought more Morgan magic. Morgan stole a pass from Dos Santos in the Blast end and then calmly found a wide open Dominic Francis who ripped one off the piping in the back of the net to make it 5-3. Francis has scored at least one goal in all 12 games this year.
“It was bittersweet at first,” said Thompson of watching the 3-0 lead evaporate. “It was a bad taste in our mouth because if we do a little more that game could have gone a little bit easier. Pat’s talk at halftime was, no matter what happens, at the end of the day we got four quarters, make sure we work for all four quarters, whether we lose the lead, continually grind it out and try to get a victory, whatever it takes to win. I think we responded well with two goals after giving up the three goal lead so it felt good.”
Morgan saved, maybe his best for last, with a croquet toe-poke through the wickets of both Marco Nascimento and Vanzela to complete the hat trick.
Morgan was limited in Friday’s game by foul trouble, but rebounded well in Sunday’s game.
“He played great tonight,” Healey said. “He struggled on Friday and he knew it, but new game, new battle, he put us on his back tonight.”
Morgan said, “It was just being aggressive like coach said, ‘Be the Bull you are and show them who you are,’ and my teammates trust me and play me the ball and I execute.”
Banahene, who knew going into the weekend that he was starting both games, also rebounded from an uneven performance on Friday.
“Friday was heartbreaking,” Banahene said. “I thought we were right there, back and forth against one of the best teams I’ve played against in the league. Responding against a rival and fighting for that fourth playoff spot is pretty sweet.”
“He’s the guy right now,” Healey said of Banahene. “You gotta go with the hot goaltender. We brought him in last year, it’s hard as a rookie goalie, you balance some success and there’s going to be some failures and sometimes watching games is important even on the sidelines or in the stands, it’s important. But he’s earned the right, he’s playing great. I think we’ve gone to the system of just kind of let him makes saves, deal with your own guy, and let him make some saves.”
“We get hyped off each other,” Banahene said of his defensive teammates. “I got hyped off big blocks. They get hyped off big saves. We have probably an average of two and a half or three years experience going against guys who have been in this league five to 10 years so we need a little motivation to push and beat these bigger teams.”
Thompson was named the game’s 3rd Star after Morgan and Banahene. “That was a big win for the team, the organization, that was much needed for us,” Thompson said, “especially after losing to San Diego in a tight game and for me I just did what I could to do my part to help the team get this victory to be honest, whether it was blocking shots, getting stuck in to help the defense, making a pass, that was my role tonight.”
With both teams at the midway point of their schedules, the 8-4 Heat now have a two game lead over the 6-6 Blast, who fell back to .500.
“Any loss is disappointing, but I thought we played really well last night (against San Diego),” said Blast Head Coach Danny Kelly. “Playing another game within 24 hours and losing a few guys to injury…we gave them goals tonight. In this league you can’t give teams goals and expect to win so unfortunately it was self-inflicted wounds.”
Schedule-wise things get tougher for Harrisburg and easier for Baltimore. The Blast’s next four games are against the Orlando SeaWolves and Rochester Lancers who are a combined 1-20. The Heat, however, embark on a wide-ranging five game road trip to Tacoma, Kansas City, St. Louis, and Milwaukee before going to Baltimore for the first time this season on February 15.