Blast still the one after 22-11 win

Team maintains share of first by beating Crunch

Wright gets eight points


March 04, 2001|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,SUN STAFF

Blast midfielder Paul Wright went hard to goal, scored from the far post, and then stood tall early in the second quarter last night, patiently waiting for approval from his teammates.

It was only part of the show.

The Blast has returned to its winning ways with a familiar formula: strong team defense, timely goals and adding to leads in the fourth quarter instead of watching them dwindle.

This latest winning roll, now at three games after a convincing 22-11 win over the visiting Cleveland Crunch, has also come with a centerpiece: Wright.

Nobody came to Baltimore Arena with more jump than Wright, who spent the night finding teammates and scoring on his own, finishing with eight points (two goals, four assists) to help the Blast (19-12) keep a share of first place in the NPSL's American Conference and regain the edge against the hated Crunch.

For Wright, who now has 84 points, it was just another game against the hated Crunch.

"It doesn't take much for me to get motivated against Cleveland. Just playing them gets me motivated. That was just a regular game for me against them," he said.

Blast coach Kevin Healey said Wright's surge started long before last night's game.

"Paul is on another planet right now -- that's the only way I can say it," he said. "He just dictated play tonight -- particularly in the first half -- and created that win for us. He's going at people right now, and that's really been the difference. With his tremendous speed, combined with the skill level he has and the power of his shot, he's just an outstanding indoor soccer player."

The Harrisburg Heat -- 19-12 winners over Wichita last night -- kept pace with the Blast at 20-13, while the Crunch (15-16) slides into a tie with Buffalo, which visits Baltimore this afternoon, for the final playoff spot. Philadelphia, an 8-6 loser to Buffalo, is 1 1/2 games behind the Blast and Harrisburg.

Wright received plenty of support, with Mark Thomas adding six points and keeper Scott Hileman turning back 16 Crunch shots.

Rookie Giuliano Celenza, in his third professional game, scored his first home goal and second of the season; fellow newcomer David Vaudreuil scored his first goal of the season; and rookie Rich Daughtridge scored a pivotal fourth-quarter goal.

"We have some injuries right now, and we all have to step up and play big," Wright said. "We pretty much dominated that game from start to finish. We put our stamp on the game early and kept it going for 60 minutes."

After Crunch forward Goran Vasic scored 56 seconds into the fourth quarter to cut the Blast lead to 15-10, Daughtridge one-timed a pass from Wright just inside the three-point arc to push the lead back to 17-10.

The Blast, which evened the season series with the Crunch at three games apiece, wasn't threatened the rest of the way.

"Rich's goal came at a big time -- after they cut it to five -- and then we were able to put them away," Healey said.

Cleveland 2 4 2 3 -- 11

Blast 6 5 4 7 -- 22

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