Blast braces for Blizzard in first round of playoffs

No. 3 seed Baltimore hopes strong road play can slow down Buffalo

April 03, 2001|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

The Baltimore Blast will open the National Professional Soccer League playoffs Saturday in Buffalo against the Blizzard, the hottest team in the American Conference over the second half of the season.

"We finished the season playing good soccer and trying for the highest seed we could get," said Blast coach Kevin Healey, whose team finished as the conference's third seed. "We're confident we'll make the necessary adjustments and be ready Saturday."

In the best-of-three series, the teams will return to Baltimore for Game 2 on April 13, with Game 3, if necessary, back in Buffalo. The date for Game 3 will be announced later.

The other American Conference matchup features the No. 1 seed Harrisburg Heat vs. the No. 4 Philadelphia KiXX. In the National Conference, the No. 1 seed Milwaukee Wave faces the No. 4 Kansas City Attack and the No. 2 Toronto Thunderhawks play the No. 3 Wichita Wings.

The Blizzard, coached by former Blast player Paul Kitson, started slowly, but has won 15 of its past 20 games and has won five of its seven meetings with the Blast.

"But we have no fear," Healey said. "Playing in the postseason is what we've been playing for all year."

The Blast has the league's best road record at 10-10, including one victory in Buffalo. No small feat, considering the Blizzard plays on a field bigger than the cozy Baltimore Arena, forcing adjustments.

The Blast will have all but one of its regulars ready Saturday. Defenseman Jason Dieter is out for the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament and will undergo surgery in about two weeks. But Dieter is one of the team's biggest cheerleaders.

"This is the postseason," he said. "Wins and losses in the regular season don't matter any more. We know we can win."

Blast playoff tickets are on sale at the Baltimore Arena Box Office and at all Ticketmaster outlets or by phone 410-481-SEAT. Prices range from $12 to $18.

(NPSL playoff schedule, 14d)

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