Fatigued, undermanned Blast can't stand Heat at home, 13-8

Harrisburg's 7-0 start, fresher legs prove decisive against patchwork lineup

Soccer

January 07, 2001|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,SUN STAFF

With a patchwork lineup that came to work on tired legs, the Blast couldn't quite find the resources or the energy last night to get by a fresher Harrisburg team.

The Heat asserted itself with the game's first seven points and didn't allow a second-half response from the Blast, which had to settle for a .500 weekend after falling, 13-8, before 4,875 at Baltimore Arena.

The season series now stands at two apiece for the two teams, with the Blast (11-4) just a half-game in front of idle Philadelphia (9-3) in the NPSL's American Conference. The third-place Heat (11-7) is 1 1/2 games back.

While the Heat was resting in Harrisburg on Friday, the Blast came off a 19-10 win at Wichita, but the signs didn't look promising from the start last night.

The team was without forwards Mark Thomas (concussion) and Lee Tschantret, who learned before Friday's game that his mother had died in Albany, N.Y.

That put recently signed Rich Daughtridge into the lineup at midfield, sent defender Doug Neely to midfield and moved defender Derrick Marcano and midfielder Paul Wright up front.

Plenty of different combinations found no answers.

"There's disadvantages happening across the board in the league, and I won't use that as an excuse," said Blast coach Kevin Healey. "On a positive side, we were home and we were coming off a good win. So in those circumstances, you want to find a way to win."

Baltimore has found ways most of the season, entering the game with a 6-2 mark when trailing at the half. Last night, no spark was found.

The Blast had a fourth-quarter opening when, trailing 13-8, Denison Cabral was tripped by Harrisburg goalkeeper Doug Petras (23 saves) on a shootout try with 7:23 left. But reserve keeper Rich Sletvold turned aside Danny Kelly's two-point penalty kick, and the Heat killed off the ensuing penalty and the remaining time.

"We seemed a little flat," Neely said. "And when it was there, we just didn't take advantage of it. You're supposed to be able to switch positions. That wasn't what made us lose - we just didn't execute our game plan and they did."

The Heat got goals from six players. Eddie Rodriguez led the way with a second quarter three-pointer that gave the visitors the 7-0 lead, and he added two assists.

The Blast twice pulled within three, the last time in the final minute of the third quarter on Wright's two-pointer for a 11-8 deficit, but Steve Klein answered 30 seconds later for the final margin. The Blast outshot the Heat 16-0 in the fourth quarter, but was unable to find the back of the net.

"It just came down to them sticking to their game plan and then just outworking us," Neely said. "They dropped back, had five guys behind the ball at all times and when you're trying to create chances, it's hard."

For a while, it looked as if the Blast would be blanked in the first half for the second time this season, as the Heat built its seven--point lead by the midway point of the second quarter.

But the home team only needed the last 3:17 of the second quarter to get back in the game as it cut the lead to 9-6 at the break.

Still, the question that continues to puzzle the club is, why the slow starts?

"I wish I knew that answer - I really do - but I don't. But we have to find out quickly," Neely said.

Added Healey: "It's a concern and we've been talking about it. Our performance in the first half certainly has to get better. Obviously it's not a conditioning thing, and I think we're a confident team. I have no idea."

NOTES: With his seven-point effort at Wichita on Friday night, forward Tarik Walker ranks fourth all-time in team scoring with 313 points. ... Baltimore will be home for two games next weekend before heading on the road for three. On Friday night, the Toronto ThunderHawks, first in the National Conference at 10-5, will be in town for their only visit. The Blast will get a visit Saturday from the Philadelphia KiXX for a key American Conference game.

Harrisburg 2 7 4 0 - 13

Blast 0 6 2 0 - 8

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