Blast refuses to lose, cools off Heat, 13-12 Its 8-0 lead blown, Smith steps up late to save win

Soccer

December 06, 1998|By Phil Jackman | Phil Jackman,SUN STAFF

The only time the Blast trailed last night was when it hurt the most -- late in the last quarter of a close game.

But still spoiling from a first-class thumping at the hands of Cleveland the night before, the team refused to give in. On a goal by Brad Smith in the last four minutes, the Blast (3-6) squeezed by the Harrisburg Heat, 13-12.

Denison Cabral, who had earlier scored three goals, launched another shot. Smith, who showed up at the Arena weak-kneed with a strep throat and 101-degree temperature, outhustled other players fighting for the ball and pushed it past Heat goalie John Kluba.

Kluba "was pushing me from behind to get at the ball, but I was determined to hold my ground," said Smith. "With my feet together, he couldn't budge me, and the ball ricocheted in off my left foot."

From then on, it was up to new goalie Brett Phillips to preserve the lead. He faced 18 shots in the last period, including a half-dozen in the last three minutes.

The Heat, held to just seven shots on goal in the first half, began to strike in the third quarter. Mark Pulisic cut the visitors' deficit to two points at the 4: 11 mark.

After Tarik Walker had pushed the Blast advantage to 10-6 at mid-period, Harrisburg forced a tie, drawing a bit of luck in scoring its equalizing goals.

Phillips made a save but fumbled the ball ahead, allowing Gerson Etcheverry to nudge in a two-pointer on the rebound. Bill Becher scored for the Heat when no Blast defender was around to clear a bloop pass near the goal.

Cabral scored on a power play to put the Blast up, 11-10, after about six minutes of the fourth period. This lasted until the 9: 18 mark, when David Bascome scored his second goal.

Phillips, who hadn't played in six months after suffering a broken ankle in June, did yeoman work under the circumstances. "Brett's got a great arm, and he kicks well with both feet," said Smith. "Any mistakes you might have seen tonight were rust. He'll get sharper and sharper from now on.

"What was so great about tonight's win is we had to claw and scratch to get it. We were going against a very fit, physical team, so it has to be a great confidence builder."

Dominating the Heat heading into the last minute before intermission, the home team was cruising, 8-0, mainly on the efforts of two goals by Cabral and three excellent setup assists by newcomer Franklin McIntosh.

Cabral hit a one-point shootout goal to start the scoring three minutes into the second period.

A Blast blitz was under way. Doug Neely converted a power play. Then, at two-minute intervals, Troy Snyder, Cabral and Derrick Marcano all found the back of the Harrisburg net.

The Blast came within 38 seconds of blanking its longtime rivals in the first half.

At the 14: 22 mark, Bascome broke the shutout bid of Phillips. Less than 30 seconds later, Phillips inadvertently kicked a clear into the stands, giving the visitors a restart kick. Jim Hesch converted through a screen.

NOTES: The Heat owns a 21-16 series advantage over Baltimore franchises but is only 6-13 at the Baltimore Arena. The Blast plays at Florida on Friday, in Harrisburg on Saturday, then plays host to Philadelphia on Dec. 18.

Pub Date: 12/06/98

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