Townson, Md. – For the second time in six days, the Empire Strykers failed to complete a spirited rally, as they suffered a 9-7 defeat at the hands of home side Baltimore Blast on Friday evening. Trailing 6-1 at the half, Empire battled back in impressive fashion after the break, only to have time run out on them the way it had in Sunday’s home loss to the Monterrey Flash. While Mexican star Marco Fabián continued his standout play in the clash with Baltimore, bagging two goals and an assist, his attacking output was matched by Blast forward Juan Pereira.
Early in the opening quarter, the Strykers struggled to match the home side’s intensity, quickly falling behind 3-0. After ex-Empire ace Jesus Pacheco set up Pereira and Oumar Sylla picked out Ricardinho, Abdul Mansaray was highly unlucky to see his attempted block on a Tony Donatelli shot result in a wicked deflection that left ‘keeper Brandon Gomez without a chance. Pereira later converted a Moises Gonzalez helper on a power play for the Blast’s fourth, which would stand as the final tally of the period.
Empire finally showed signs of life when Stefan Mijatovic released a powerful right-footed drive from far outside the area, Baltimore ‘keeper Mike Zierhoffer leaving his feet to palm the ball out of the upper right-hand corner and over the frame.
The hosts continued their strong play in the second quarter and were rewarded with another goal by Ricardinho. The 34-year-old easily finished on an assist by recent roster addition Ricardo Diegues, who had broken through on the left and centered the ball courtesy of a clever pass off the boards. Sylla subsequently made it 6-0, releasing a beautiful left-footed curling effort from range that found the net via the inside of the left upright, Donatelli providing the helper.
After Diegues forced a strong kick-save from Empire netminder Gomez, the visitors got their first of the match. Momo Gueye unleashed a dangerous shot that appeared to be tipped over and off the glass by Zierhoffer, the rebound falling to Garrett Blume, who scored by way of a spectacular scissor kick for his debut goal in professional indoor soccer. Shortly thereafter, Diegues was again bested by Gomez, as he streaked down field on a breakaway for a one on one with the Strykers ‘backstop. Gomez did well to stand his ground and deny the midfielder’s attempted finish toward the near post.
Baltimore didn’t take…