21-13 win over Heat puts Blast back in 2nd

Cabral has three goals

beating KiXX tonight would mean playoff edge

Soccer

March 31, 2001|By Michael Bullock | Michael Bullock,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

HARRISBURG, Pa. - When the Blast entered the Farm Show Arena last night, every card-carrying member of the National Professional Soccer League club knew what the stakes were.

A win over Harrisburg, the American Conference's regular-season champion, would again give the Blast sole possession of second place. Home-field advantage for the fast-approaching playoffs would remain a viable possibility, too.

Well, thanks to a 21-13 victory before a crowd of 5,626, second place once again belongs to the Baltimore team. Another victory tonight in Philadelphia and the Blast will open the NPSL playoffs at home.

"Our goal this weekend was to get the highest seed possible and get back on a winning track," said coach Kevin Healey. "We're glad we could do that."

Denison Cabral scored three goals and Tarik Walker two for the Blast (22-17), which ended a three-game losing streak by scoring 11 of the game's last 15 points.

"We have to get used to the pressure because that's what's going to happen in every game from here on," said Cabral. "It's good to be challenged and win because we have to win every game in the playoffs."

Aggressive on the offensive end throughout, the Blast put Harrisburg goalkeeper Rich Sletvold under particular pressure during the first half by sending 34 of its 49 shots at the second-year netminder.

Six went in.

The sixth, Ronnie Simmons' three-point shot with five seconds remaining in the opening half, gave the Blast a 13-9 lead at the break.

A pair of Cabral goals and one apiece from Walker, Lance Johnson and Mark Thomas also factored into a balanced Blast attack that displayed plenty of jump throughout.

None was bigger, however, than Simmons' 50-foot rip. Especially since Harrisburg had pulled to within a point only nine seconds earlier on a goal by Baltimore native Mike Henning.

Gino DiFlorio, Eddie Rodriguez and Leidy Klotz also had first-half goals for Harrisburg, which played without three regulars and lost David Bascome (quadriceps strain) about six minutes into the opening quarter.

Third-quarter scores by Lee Tschantret and Cabral stretched the Blast lead to 17-9.

And when J.J. Kremer and Walker tacked on scores early in the fourth quarter, the Blast was back in second by itself. But not firmly.

The Blast leads Philadelphia (21-17), its opponent tonight on the road, by a mere half game.

But going into the final game of the regular season, holding even the slightest of leads is better than trailing.

Last night's lead, however, was much more comfortable. So much, in fact, that Blast keeper Scott Hileman (21-16, 12 saves) was able to sit down with 5:41left.

Hileman surrendered a second Rodriguez goal before Josh Campbell took over. Harrisburg (24-16) added a score against Campbell (two saves), this one by Eric Kvello, but that was it.

"It's good to win a game," said Cabral. "From here on, we want to get back to the way we were at the beginning of the season [the Blast opened 7-0]. We're a winning team and we have to get used to winning because that's what it takes."

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