KISSIMMEE, FL — The Orlando SeaWolves scored first but could not hold off the defending champion Baltimore Blast, falling by a 4-1 final score at Silver Spurs Arena. The SeaWolves fall to 0-2 in their inaugural MASL season despite an early goal by Luiz Mota. Baltimore broke a 1-1 deadlock in the third quarter and never looked back.
The game could have been more lopsided if not for a phenomenal night in goal by keeper Rainer Hauss, who finished with 15 saves and many of those were of the spectacular variety.
“They’re three-time defending champions and they’re a very good team,” said Orlando Head Coach Tom Traxler after the game. “We’ve played three games. We’ve shown that we can defend in this league and we can defend very well. I’m sure they’ll tell you we gave them a hard time tonight defensively.
“We need to be better in possession but that’s going to come with chemistry. We’re a new team together. We’ve had three games. They’ve had 3,000 games. That’s a great club and you can’t take anything away from them.”
“Baltimore is a great team — very experienced — that’s why they’re three times in a row champions of this league, so they know what they’re doing,” Mota said.
Gordy Gurson forced a good save from Baltimore goalkeeper William Vanzela just seconds into the match in the game’s first decent chance.
Mota opened the scoring 7:13 into the game when he got onto the end of a long pass from Eduardo Cruz and hit it first time into the bottom left corner from the right side.
GOAL!!! Luiz Mota opens up the scoring!!! SeaWolves lead it 1-0! pic.twitter.com/4Qq9mNEnnh— Orlando SeaWolves (@MCOSeaWolves) December 15, 2018
The Blast tried to answer immediately. Hauss made a huge save on Tony Donatalli just after the restart. Hauss made a second big stop on a ball bouncing around in front of goal in traffic. The game settled in a bit for the rest of the first quarter, with Hauss making a tough save on Andrew Hoxie. The SeaWolves held their 1-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Ex-Orlando City fullback Tyler Turner began the second period with a shot just wide of goal. Baltimore took control after that, holding long spells of possession and a couple very close chances. Elton de Oliveira forced Hauss into a fantastic kick save and Juan Pereira fired just over the bar from point-blank range as the Blast threatened.
HUGE save from Rainer Hauss to keep the lead! pic.twitter.com/8qB1rn9xDK— Orlando SeaWolves (@MCOSeaWolves) December 15, 2018
The visitors finally broke through with 8:12 remaining in the first half off a set piece. Jonatas Melo left it off for Hoxie, who fired through traffic and found the back of the net to make it 1-1.
Richard Schmermund fired just wide of goal and Lewis Neal fired over the bar with under four minutes to play in the second quarter in Orlando’s final flurry of the first half. The SeaWolves and Blast went to the locker room tied at 1-1, but Baltimore held a big advantage in shots, 12-6 (11-3 on goal). Neither team had a power play in the first half.
Baltimore took the lead just 3:04 into the third quarter. Pereira fired a near-post shot off the boards that got behind Hauss and popped out in front of goal for an easy tap-in for Josh Hughes. Moments later Pereira was denied from close range by Hauss off a set piece as the Blast continued to pressure.
Turner tried to set up Schmermund a minute later but Vanzela came off his line to close down the chance. That was an important intercession by the Blast keeper because Baltimore extended its lead to 3-1 at the 7:37 mark when Pereira was sent in alone on goal by de Oliveira and chipped a shot softly over Hauss to make it 3-1.
Things got worse for Orlando when Rapha Tobias got called for tripping, butting the Blast on the power play. Joshio Sandoval made a big play to prevent a goal by blocking a Pereira shot and Hauss made a pair of saves to deny Melo and Donatelli, with the latter sending a second effort off the crossbar and out of play. Orlando was able to kill the penalty but it was extremely nervy. The Blast took their 3-1 advantage into the final period.
Orlando blew an opportunity to climb within a goal early in the fourth quarter when Cruz chipped a ball into the area for Tobias but the Brazilian’s touch let him down and his effort was soft and off target.
Hauss came up big again on a two-on-zero after a horrible turnover in the defensive end on a Jon Orlando shot. At the 4:28 mark Gurson had two great opportunities off a set piece but he sent the first just wide and the second was a scissor kick effort that unfortunately went straight at Vanzela. Seconds later, Schmermund committed a foul and went to the penalty box, putting the Blast back on the power play.
The Blast sent a shot that skipped just in front of the goal line early on the advantage and Hauss made another huge save on Pereira seconds later. Hauss then denied Marco Nascimento at close range under the constant pressure from Baltimore.
Orlando managed to kill the penalty and then had an opportunity to break when Tobias came out of the box, but made one too many passes on the attack and the chance was wasted.
Jereme Raley should have put the game away for Baltimore but Hauss again made a stellar save as the Blast had gotten in behind, two-on-zero. Despite a last-second pass, the Orlando keeper was able to get over to deny Raley.
Gurson missed the net by inches on two quick chances with under five minutes to play. With just 2:37 to play Gurson deflected a shot but it fell right into Vanzela’s hands. Luke Boden nearly found Gurson on the doorstep with two minutes remaining but he whiffed on his shot and then Osvaldo Rojas fired a shot over the goal.
BALL, WHY DON'T YOU GO IN THE GOAL pic.twitter.com/fqAUybhgzO— Orlando SeaWolves (@MCOSeaWolves) December 15, 2018
Lewis Neal slammed a shot inches wide as time wound down and then hustled back to break up a one-on-no one break.
Rainer are you kidding!? He comes up and stops a 2v0! pic.twitter.com/UEQuDDaHaU— Orlando SeaWolves (@MCOSeaWolves) December 15, 2018
Tobias took a foul on the play as the last defender and the Blast had a penalty. Pereira took it and put it in to complete the scoring.
“They know where they have to be and they know what to do at the right time,” Hauss said of the Blast. “Definitely Baltimore is a team that will punish whoever is playing against them and has little mistakes. It takes like one second for them to get into the space and score a goal. I think we defended well but we need a little more offense.”
Orlando got a very late power play but the SeaWolves were unable to pull one back. Final shots were 38-20 to Baltimore (26-9 on goal). Baltimore went 1-for-3 on the power play and Orlando was 0-for-1.
“Our inability to keep the ball, really,” said Traxler of the difference between the first and second halves. “It hurt us all night long. If you look at the start of the game, when we scored our goal, we were possessing it and we were keeping the ball well. And as the game progressed, we didn’t.”
“Second half I believe it’s experience,” Mota said. “This game is about rotating the ball a lot. They kept possession well and made us run. We got punished with some blue cards that hurt us really bad.”
Orlando will be back in action on Saturday, Dec. 22 at Silver Spurs Arena against the Mississauga MetroStars at 7:05 p.m. The MetroStars feature former MLS All-Star Dwayne De Rosario.