Blast defense rises for first victory, 13-6 High-scoring Philly dominated throughout


November 22, 1998|By Phil Jackman | Phil Jackman,SUN STAFF

Philadelphia had run off three straight victories capped by a 20-2 frolic past Florida last weekend. The Kixx arrived at the Baltimore Arena last night on a roll, averaging 18 points per game and allowing half that.

Defense! Defense! Defense!

This familiar chant turned into reality by the Blast, cut Philly down to size and, after four opening losses, the home team captured its first win, 13-6.

Actually, the game wasn't that close, the Blast dominating throughout as, adhering to coach Kevin Healey's preachings to hustle and communicate when the other team has the ball, the team bottled up the Kixx in its own end or in the midfield.

The veterans on the Blast squad then took over, "old" hands Brad Smith, Danny Kelly and Doug Neely providing the offense when Philly began to make a game of it in the third period.

Despite a wide edge in scoring opportunities, the Blast clung to a precarious 5-4 lead late in the third quarter.

That's when Kelly set up Neely, Smith scored a couple, and Kelly capped the scoring with a two-point penalty kick.

"We're disappointed with our slow start," said hat-trick scorer Smith, "but this is a veteran team, we know that sooner or later it's going to go our way.

"What we had to improve on off a bad game against St. Louis, though, was our team defense. It's awfully hard to score on a team that gets five players back and that's what's been drummed into us lately: Hustle back as quickly as possible."

Normally, when a team gets a lead, as the Blast did late in the first period, it tends to hunker down and rely on its defense. The so-called prevent defense has led to many a loss in the NPSL.

The Blast did not go this route. From 5-4, it outscored Philly, 8-2, and had far more energy and drive going at the end.

Smith had no idea how long it had been since he scored three goals in a game. "Maybe a year or two ago," he said. "This is a game where who gets the goal doesn't matter. We wouldn't care if our goalie got all the goals, although that's not likely to happen.

"We have a good team, a hard-working team. I just hope the fans keep the faith because we're going to get it done. If we play like tonight consistently, well, you know you don't lose many games if you give up just six points, particularly against a team like Philadelphia."

The home team dominated the first half, outhustling, outgunning and creating many more scoring opportunities than the Kixx. All this did not show up where it counts, however, on the scoreboard.

Philly drew first blood, Mali Walton scoring from in close, but then floundered badly as the Blast pushed it into its own end, applying constant pressure.

Denison Cabral tied the game with his fifth goal of the season shortly after the mid-point of the first quarter, then followed up four minutes later with his sixth tally.

The 5-foot-4, 150-pound midfielder was all over the place, penetrating the Kixx defense and drawing fouls, but ran into a streak of bad luck on shootout attempts and a penalty kick.

In one instant, he was fouled by Philly goalie Pete Pappas on a one-point shootout try, but then hammered the ball wide on a two-point penalty try. He also missed a shootout opportunity as the Blast unloaded 10 shots in the second session but was only able to score one point.

This came on a power play, Smith picking up his second goal on a feed from Barry Stitz, the veteran midfielder's second of the game.

Philly had 14 shots on goal in the first 30 minutes, but Khalil Azmi was required to make just one of his patented, acrobatic saves.

The teams traded goals in a rugged, physical third period, Mike Veneto scoring for the visitors to close the gap to 5-4 early. Neely gave the Blast some breathing room inside the three-minute mark of the quarter with his fourth goal out of a goal-mouth scramble.

NOTES: The Blast's next home game is Saturday against the expansion Florida Thundercats (2-3), after a visit to Cleveland on Friday. Defender Todd Hicks missed his fourth straight game with a bad knee. The Kixx is averaging 9,795 in attendance in its three home games.

Philadelphia ... 2 ... 0 ... 2 ... 2 -- 6

Blast .......... 4 ... 1 ... 2 ... 6 -- 13

Pub Date: 11/22/98

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