Crunch chews up Blast, 20-6

Playoff status is shaky as undermanned visitors lose seventh in past 8


March 10, 2002|By Jeff Schudel | Jeff Schudel,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

CLEVELAND - The Blast's grip on the final playoff spot in the Major Indoor Soccer League is starting to get very slippery.

The team chasing the Blast, the Cleveland Crunch, took another bite out of its cushion last night by trampling its undermanned visitors, 20-6, at the Cleveland State Convocation Center.

The Blast (14-19) has lost seven of its past eight games. Its hold on the fourth and final playoff spot is down to 3 1/2 games. The Blast has 11 games left. The Crunch has 10.

"We have to win our games and let the standings take care of themselves," Blast coach Kevin Healey said. "We have to regroup. Tonight the problem was scoring. That usually isn't the case. If we put away our chances in the first half, it might have been a different game."

It was evident early the Blast wasn't going to get lucky offensively. Two shots in the first quarter bounced off the bottom of the crossbar. But luck had nothing to do with a defensive meltdown.

A week ago today, Healey, looking for a spark, started Karim Mounban in goal against the Harrisburg Heat. Mounban was a vacuum cleaner, sucking up 23 of the 28 shots the Heat fired at him in a 15-10 Blast victory to break a six-game losing streak.

A fight broke out at the end of the game in Harrisburg, resulting in suspensions for both teams. One of the Blast players banished for three games was regular goalkeeper Scott Hileman. Forward Tarik Walker and defender Dewan Bader also were suspended.

Healey had no choice but to play Mounban last night, but Mounban was no match for the re-energized Crunch offense, which is starting to sniff the playoffs despite the worst season in franchise history.

"Karim is inexperienced, but I thought he made a lot of good saves," Healey said. "He made one mistake. That happens to every goalkeeper.

"It's not an excuse, but we were missing some key players. We have to overcome that and play as a team."

The game began well enough when Paul Wright kicked a shot that skidded past Cleveland goalkeeper Otto Orf into the lower left corner of the net, but that was the only Blast goal until Sean Bowers ended a drought of 47:21 when he ripped a shot into the top right of the net 3:18 into the fourth quarter. By then, Cleveland was cruising with a 16-4 lead.

Mounban and the Blast defense started unraveling with five minutes left in the first quarter when Bill Sedgewick scored on a half-volley from 15 feet in front of the Blast net. Sedgewick drove home a rebound 1:55 later to make the score 4-2.

Before the final horn sounded, Mounban shouted at his teammates for not supporting him. At other times he raised his hands in a helpless shrug.

Blast forward Lester Felician had a seizure with 7:52 left in the first quarter. He was treated by doctors on the Baltimore bench.

Healey said Felician appeared fine in the locker room at halftime, though he did not return to the game.

Blast 2 0 0 4 - 6

Cleveland 4 8 2 6 - 20

First quarter: BB Wright (Johnson) :57; CC Sedgewick (Marinaro) 10:00;CC Sedgewick (Marinaro) 11:55. Second quarter: CC Flavius (Evans) :18; CC Reiger (Couch) :42; CCMarinaro (Evans) 5:11; CC Oliviero (Marinaro) 9:40. Third quarter: CC Sedgewick (Marinaro) 7:06. Penalties: CC Pizzolitto(holding) 9:24. Fourth quarter: CC Butcher (Oliviero) 2:42; BB Bowers (Wright) 3:18; CCOliviero (Marinaro) 9:37; CC Butcher (Orf) 11:00; BB Cabral (Daughtridge)1:28. Penalties: CC Sedgewick (misconduct) 2:58; CC James (holding) 3:47; BBCelenza (holding) 13:16. Goalies: Blast, Mounban 25-15. Cleveland. Orf 28-25. A: 5,632.

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