The Blast is still marveling at the unlikely series of events that has put it in the Major Soccer League playoffs and on a plane today for San Diego.
"We're in the playoffs!" said defender Iain Fraser, who scored twice in the Blast's 7-2 win Saturday over Tacoma. "Can you believe it? No, you can't. Everyone wrote us off. This feels so great."
Blast midfielder Rod Castro, who will get to play against his former Sockers teammates, was equally elated.
"This is heaven," he said. "This is what I've been waiting for. San Diego is very good. They've proved it during the regular season, so we've got to go work hard."
The Dallas Sidekicks will play host to the Cleveland Crunch in the other semifinal. The Crunch earned the third playoff spot by beating the Wichita Wings, 3-2, in overtime on a goal by George Fernandez. That series will begin April 14 at Reunion Arena.
Hard work and "not making the same mistake twice" are what brought the Blast, the MSL's youngest team, to the league's postseason party, said Blast coach Kenny Cooper.
The Blast goes into Wednesday night's playoff opener on a three-game winning streak, which includes Saturday's 7-2 domination of the Stars. In that game, Blast Most Valuable Player Domenic Mobilio had three goals and team captain Rusty Troy scored to finish the regular season with a career-high 44 points.
"This is what we wanted," said Cooper, whose teams have never been able to beat the Sockers in four tries in championship series. "To be honest, I think if we had to play them for the title, it would be very difficult for this young team.
"But this is the first time we've played them in the semifinals. We're loose. No one is giving us a cat's chance in hell to start with and I think, for the first time, the schedule favors us.
"For the first time we go into a San Diego series totally relaxed, with momentum and with nothing to lose."
The Blast will play the first and second playoff games in San Diego Wednesday and Friday. Games 3 and 4 are at the Baltimore Arena, April 14 and 16. If necessary, a fifth game will be in Baltimore April 18, Game 6 in San Diego April 19 or 20, as would a seventh game, April 21.
"Kenny kept telling us crazy things happen," said Blast defender Doug Neely, who has been chosen by his teammates to receive the Mike Reynolds Unsung Hero Award. "And our team motto has been 'Anything Can Happen at a Blast Game,' and it all turned out to be true. Our chances as far back as two weeks ago were slim and now we're in. Unbelievable!"
But the Blast, at 19-21, is in. "Now we go to San Diego and start fresh with a clean slate," Troy said.
* Playoff tickets went on sale this morning at the Arena box office and at all Hecht Co. stores. Tickets are $7 and $14, the same as the regular season.