The Chicago Riot put another notch on their winning totem pol Sunday night, defeating the Baltimore Blast by a final tally of 14-12. The star of the game by far, would be new Riot netminder Ante Cop. I'll be honest here. When the writers here at HTIOT saw the YouTube video of Ante Cop talking about how old he was, we were worried about him filling in for injured Chicago Riot goaltender Jeff Richey this weekend. Baltimore entered the game with a 13 goal per game average, just behind league leading Milwaukee's 13.4 goals per game. Cop adjusting to a new team that currently had a 1-6 record and entering a game against the second best team in the league seemed like it could get very ugly, very fast. Cop detained all of those thoughts as he not only provided an assist and 22 saves but ended up scoring the game winning goal in you have to see it to believe it fashion. Follow me after the break for a quick recap of the action....
Unlike what has become somewhat of a custom for the Chicago Riot, they did not score the first goal in yesterday's game. In fact, the Riot were held scoreless in the first quarter for the first time since the home opener on December 6th, 2010 against the Milwaukee Wave. The Blast lead off the scoring with a goal by Adrian Bumbut, who was fed with a nice pass from Pat Healey. This gave the Blast an early 2-0 lead, which swelled to 4-0 when Max Ferdinand assisted Matt Watson for another quality goal. While Riot fans may have started to get that "here we go again" feeling, Alex Megson struck right back just 19 seconds after the Blast score on a beautiful assist by Chicago captain, Fred Degand. Megson is really coming on strong having scored in 4 of the Riot's last 5 games while Fred Degand celebrated his 100th career Major Indoor Soccer League appearance. Congrats to them both on their accomplishments.
Back in the game action, Eric Lukin then knotted the score at 4 a piece in the 4th minute of the 2nd quarter on another assist by our man Degand. Bato Radoncic made it 3 unanswered scores and a 6-4 Riot lead when goaltender Ante Cop tallied his assist by firing a pass straight up the gut to Bato. After some masterful splitting of the defense, Bato knocked the ball home in the 11th minute of the 2nd quarter. The Riot thought they would have the halftime lead only to see the Blast's Pats (Morris for the goal and Healey for the assist) connect to make it 6-6 right before the break.
Morris' goal started 3 unanswered goals of Baltimore's own as Worteh Sampson and Max Ferdinand scored unassisted 2 pointers in the 4th and the 6th minutes of the 3rd quarter respectively to make it 10-6 Blast. The Riot battled back as Radoncic netted his second score of the game on a wonderful redirect from Marco Sullo to cut the Blast lead to 10-8 with just 19 seconds to spare before the start of the 4th quarter. The scores went quiet until Baltimore's Carlos Garcia found Pat Healey and Healey found the back of the net with 6 minutes left in the game. It was 12-8 in favor of Baltimore and it looked like the Riot would once again respectfully compete but fall just short while moving to a dreadful 1-7 record.
This is when the magic happened and the Riot decided they would not be going quietly into the night. Ante Cop begin pushing up as a 6th attacker, a dangerous but necessary move at the time. The ball bounced around like a pin ball machine until it hit the flipper of Novi Marojevic's shoe. Novi reached back and put the ball on a laser like trajectory straight past Baltimore's helpless goalie. As a shot from behind the line, it was a three point goal to close the Blast lead to 12-11. It seemed like a devastating blow to the Blast players, much like when my alma mater, the Northern Iowa Panthers, defeated Kansas in the NCAA tournament last year, making Marcus Morris weep like a child. Ok, a regular season MISL game may not have the impact of a huge NCAA tournament upset, but the feeling to me was the same when that goal was netted by Novi. I just had a feeling the Riot would get another tally for the win. It was getting late, very late, like 30 seconds left in the game late, but then much as the 3 pointer destroyed Kansas' hopes, Ante Cop netted a wonder goal. It was a 3 point shot from just across midfield with only 23 seconds on the clock to send the Odeum crowd and the Riot team into absolute I'm-posting-this-on-Facebook-bragging-about-this-on-Monday-remembering-this-for-the-rest-of-my-life style pandemonium. If you don't believe me, just check out the great video below that highlights the amazing 4th quarter comeback.
After some tough bounces, the Riot finally got some good ones of their own. Chicago will look to build on their success this Saturday, January 22 in Milwaukee at 6:00 PM at the US Cellular Arena. Don't forget to check out their next home game on Sunday, January 30 when the Baltimore Blast return to the Odeum and the Riot honor "Chicago Soccer Heritage Night". After nights like last night, it's clear this Chicago Riot team is quickly building its own Chicago soccer heritage. Congratulations to Ante Cop and the Riot for a stirring first home victory. Here is to many more to come.