Blast seeks redemption in Montreal

Memories of 22-20 defeat spurring defensive plans

January 28, 2000|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

The last time the Blast went to Montreal, it turned in one of its worst defensive performances of the season. Asked what the team can do to come away with a win there tonight, Blast goalkeeper Scott Hileman simply said, "We can't give up as many goals as we did the last time."

Fair and accurate enough considering the Blast gave up a season-high 22 points in a two-point loss in Montreal on Jan. 16. The defeat ended a seven-game winning streak.

Beforehand, the team got caught in a snowstorm and arrived less than an hour before kickoff. The Impact scored three third-quarter goals in a span of 46 seconds to take an 18-13 lead, and never trailed again.

Blast coach Kevin Healey did not use the situation surrounding the game as an excuse. Rather, he said it was more a case of Montreal being on its game.

In any case, there should be no problems with travel-caused sluggishness tonight as the team arrived in Montreal yesterday.

"This is going to be a challenge," Healey said. "We have a lot of respect for both Montreal and Cleveland [which the Blast will play tomorrow]. They are both very good teams.

"Obviously, the key for us tonight is to play better defense than we did last time."

The Blast's defense will be without Doug Neely, who reinjured his back last week against Harrisburg and is back on the disabled list. The defense, which has been the team's strong suit this season, will be led by Lance Johnson, the league's current Defensive Player of the Week.

"We know we're going to have to play solid defense," defender Barry Stitz said. "Last time, we just gave up too many points. If we keep them at a low point total, then we'll be all right."

The rematch involves the teams with the American Conference's best records. The Blast (15-9) holds a three-game lead over Philadelphia in the East Division, and Montreal (14-9) holds a 3 1/2-game lead over Buffalo in the Central.

The Blast holds a 2-1 season edge over the Impact.

Blast tonight

Opponent: Montreal Impact

Site: Centre Claude Robillard, Montreal

Time: 7: 30

Radio: WCBM (680 AM)

Outlook: This is the fourth game between the two top teams in the American Conference, with the Blast holding a 2-1 advantage. The Impact won the previous game, 22-20. Montreal is last in the National Professional Soccer League in attendance, averaging 2,762. Giuliano Oliviero leads the Impact with 78 points.

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