Blast moves out to 9-point lead, watches Crunch destroy it, 16-15

Third straight defeat at home drops team two games behind Heat

Soccer

March 25, 2001|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,SUN STAFF

The Blast should have learned long ago that, when it comes to the Cleveland Crunch, nothing ever comes easy.

Things were going strangely too well last night when the Blast used just over two quarters to build a seemingly sturdy, nine-point lead.

The rest of the game, played in front of 7,433 on fan appreciation night at Baltimore Arena, was just plain strange.

The Crunch returned from the dead to keep its playoff hopes alive with an improbable, 16-15 comeback win that featured a controversial three-point goal by Bill Sedgewick; a stellar, 19-save performance from veteran Otto Orf, and more home frustration for the Blast, which was denied another chance to clinch a playoff spot.

The Blast fell to 21-16 for the season and slipped to two games behind first-place Harrisburg (24-15) in the NPSL's American Conference.

The Blast will be on the road for its last three regular-season games, starting this afternoon against Philadelphia in Trenton, N.J.

The KiXX (20-16) moved within one-half game of the Blast for second place with a 22-5 win over Kansas City last night.

After jumping out to a 9-0 lead early into the third quarter, the Blast watched the 18-19 Crunch - now one game behind Buffalo (19-18) for the last playoff spot - make it all up in five minutes.

Sedgewick's three-pointer came later, 1:52 into the fourth quarter, after the Blast had regained control with a 13-9 lead.

None of the three referees saw what the video replay clearly showed: Sedgewick's plant foot clearly inside the three-point line and his strike of the ball starting even further inside.

"After reviewing the tape, it was a two-pointer," said Blast coach Kevin Healey. "A referee has to know it's a three-pointer and you can't call it unless you know it and he couldn't have known it because it was obviously a two."

Cleveland's first lead came with 10:36 left when Troy Dusoski scored on a restart from Hector Marinaro.

Then the game-winner came from recently acquired Henry Gutierrez, who spun a defender in coming out from the right corner and finished with the left foot for a 16-13 lead with 5:57 left.

Aside from Danny Santoro's third goal of the game, which cut the lead to 16-15 with 2:08 remaining, the rest of the game belonged to Orf.

Ronnie Simmons, Paul Wright, Denison Cabral and Tarik Walker all had shots turned away by Orf in the fourth quarter. With Danny Kelly on in the closing minute, Cabral had another chance, but this time help came from a sliding Andy Schmetzer.

"It's very frustrating. I don't know if it's a letdown - we're working hard in practice and we're working hard on the field. It's just certain things happen," said Santoro. We talked about coming out strong and we did that and then we do the opposite in the third quarter."

It was the third straight home loss for the Blast, which now turns to the road after ending the regular season a disappointing 12-8 at Baltimore Arena.

Again, it was one poor stretch offsetting an otherwise solid performance. In Tuesday's 15-12 loss to Detroit, the Blast allowed an 11-point second quarter.

Adding to the woes was another injury, with defender Jason Dieter going down in the second quarter with a knee injury that could sideline him the rest of the way.

"Bad things are happening at bad times and it's been a short span of time - each night it's like a different little thing that's getting us," said Blast captain Lance Johnson. "It's hard, we've just got to keep working and the best thing is we have another game today."

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