Cleveland does in Blast early, 13-8

13-2 deficit at break termed `too deep a hole' as Crunch wins series, 3-1

March 04, 2000|By Dale Meggas | Dale Meggas,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

CLEVELAND -- The Blast's drive for the title in the National Professional Soccer League's East Division hit a Central Division bump in the road last night.

That bump was a nightmarish first half in a 13-8 loss to the Cleveland Crunch, which did all of its scoring before the break, leaving the Blast a longer trip to Edmonton for tomorrow afternoon's game with the Drillers.

The Blast, still 2 1/2 games up in the East on the Philadelphia KiXX, fell behind 9-0 in the second quarter and 13-2 at halftime before closing to the final margin with two third-period goals and one early in the final period.

"We made our mistakes, and Cleveland took advantage," said Blast coach Kevin Healey. "We dug too deep a hole in the first half. When they add them up, you get a win or a loss, and it's only one at a time. We've bounced back before."

Said Cleveland coach Bruce Miller: "This is one [win] we really wanted. We haven't built up confidence. We are still concerned about blowing leads."

Revved up at halftime, the Blast came out and won the third quarter, 4-0, on goals by Paul Wright and Denison Cabral. Then, 4: 46 into the final period, Baltimore cut the Crunch's lead to 13-8 on a goal by Tarik Walker.

Blast goalie Scott Hileman, who had 19 saves for the evening, kept Cleveland off the scoreboard in the second half, but the Crunch did enough damage before intermission. Cleveland goalie Otto Orf got the win with 16 saves.

The Blast, still the top seed in the American Conference at 21-13, ended the regular season with a 1-3 record against Cleveland, now 18-15 in second place in the Central Division.

"The first half was great," said Miller. "That first goal was classic. A real highlight goal."

The Crunch set the tempo early, taking a 2-0 lead just 38 seconds into play on what Miller called "a real highlight goal," Hector Marinaro putting in a header off a short pass from Zoran Karic, who had pulled in an outlet from Orf. Marinaro also scored shootout and power-play goals in the second period.

Down 9-0, the Blast broke through at 4: 51 of the second, when midfielder Danny Kelly tapped in a rebound of shot by forward Erik Rasmussen.

Blast 0 2 4 2 -- 8

Cleveland 6 7 0 0 -- 13

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