Blast still has inside track on playoffs

April 01, 1991|By Bill Free

The numbers are mind-boggling.

A Major Soccer League record of six straight one-goal losses, 1-12 in the past 13 games, 8-19 in one-goal games this season, five straight defeats at home for the first time in team history and 5-8 in overtime games this season.

No one around the Major Soccer League has ever seen anything like the late-season exercise in futility the Baltimore Blast is going through.

"What's going on up there in Baltimore?" said Dallas Sidekicks owner Phil Cobb yesterday. "It looks like the Blast is having a lot of bad luck. We've been having that kind of luck all year."

Blast owner Ed Hale said, "I like being miserable," as he was watching a Home Team Sports tape-delay telecast yesterday of Saturday night's 9-8 overtime loss to the Cleveland Crunch at the Baltimore Arena.

The Blast blew an 8-6 lead in the final minute of regulation before falling in overtime when Crunch defender Gregg Willin nudged a shot past Baltimore goalkeeper Scott Manning 6 minutes, 47 seconds into sudden death.

It was the second time in less than 24 hours that Baltimore had squandered a two-goal lead in the fourth quarter and lost in overtime. The Blast had a 6-4 lead before losing to the St. Louis Storm on Friday night.

"There's been a series of bizarre events that have added up to a lot of bad dreams," said Blast coach Kenny Cooper. "You believe it can't be true, but you wake up in the morning and it's all very real."

Baltimore gave up three goals to Cleveland on set plays (free kicks or corner kicks) and failed to hold on to the ball in the final 35 seconds of regulation play with an 8-7 lead.

The Blast lost the ball on a free kick with 35 seconds left when Mike Reynolds passed to Billy Ronson who was double-teamed and lost the ball. A frustrated Ronson then was called for a foul 10 seconds later, giving Cleveland a free kick that led to four straight shots before Hector Marinaro's head shot tied the game at 8 with 20 seconds left in regulation.

Ronson said: "I got back down the floor and tried to make a tackle on Hector and it didn't materialize. Hector did a pretty good job of acting and I got the foul."

The most incredible part of this horror story is that Baltimore (20-30) still can qualify for the MSL Eastern Division playoffs.

The third-place Blast leads the last-place Wichita Wings (19-31) by one game with two remaining in the battle for the final East playoff berth.

Any combination of Baltimore wins or Wichita losses equaling two will give the Blast its 11th playoff spot in the 11-year history of the team.

Wichita has lost three straight and is 4-6 in the past 10 games, helping the Baltimore cause. The Wings finish the season with home games against the Crunch on Friday night and the Storm on Sunday afternoon.

The Blast winds up with a home game Friday night against the Sidekicks and a road game against Eastern Division-leading Cleveland (28-21) on Saturday night.

NOTES: Injured M Tim Wittman (arthroscopic surgery on left knee March 4) tried to play for the first time in 11 games Saturday night, but his knee wouldn't allow him to contribute much after the first half. "There was a lot of pain and I couldn't cut," said Wittman, who had said two days earlier he wouldn't play at least until next weekend. "Kenny [Cooper] wanted me on the bench with the team and then he said if I felt OK to play, the doctors believed it wouldn't do any harm. So I gave it a try after warming up before the game."

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