Philly trip business as usual for Blast

But beating 2-0 KiXX would help erase memories of playoff loss


November 03, 2001|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,SUN STAFF

Blast midfielder Paul Wright says a win tonight in Philadelphia cannot help avenge what happened last spring when the KiXX ended his team's season.

That will have to wait for a later time. Tonight, he adds, simply represents regular-season business as usual.

"They beat us when it counted most," said Wright, who has seven assists this season. "This is just a regular-season game - it's important, yes. But it's not as important as a playoff game. So they're one up on us, and the only time we're going to be able to get them back is in the playoffs."

A win, nonetheless, can still bring plenty of satisfaction.

It can help offset a sluggish performance last weekend in Cleveland, where the Blast (2-1) dropped its first game. It can hand the KiXX, the only undefeated team left in the Major Indoor Soccer League at 2-0, its first setback and, in the process, send an early message.

Bottom line: The Blast has a rare weekend with only one game to be played, and a potential 3-1 mark looks much better than 2-2. Last season, the Blast took four of seven against the KiXX in the regular season before the latter took two of three to capture the then-National Professional Soccer League's American Conference title.

"We definitely want to set the tone for the rest of the season, and we need to get that bad taste out of our mouths from last season. So we got a two-fold situation in what we're going in there for," said Blast forward Tarik Walker, who has two goals and two assists. "When you only have that one game, you definitely don't want to come out of it with a loss, because then, you have to go through that whole following week thinking about it."

The KiXX, like every team, has additions and subtractions this season to bring an unknown quantity to the first go-around.

Chris Handsor and Joel Shanker join an offense led by veterans Kevin Sloan and Don D'Ambra, and the KiXX has moved Shawn Boney, all 6 feet 7 of him, back on defense to help offset the coach Omid Namazi's dropping, for now, his player-coach tag.

"I think they really helped themselves in the off-season," said Healey. "After two weeks, there's only one team with an undefeated record, so it would be nice to go up there and knock them off. But it's going to be a long season, and we'll see them plenty."

When the teams meet, defense - with Peter Pappas in goal for the KiXX and Scott Hileman at the other end for the Blast - has dictated play often in recent years. Walker believes this time around should be no different.

"Chances to score are going to be really, really tight, so the opportunities you have to finish in the box, you have to be sure to take care of," he said. "Also on the other end, we can't give up those opportunities for them to jump out and get a lead. We've had some success in the past by getting them frustrated early."

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