Blast tests Wave in playoff preview

First-place Milwaukee is undefeated at home


April 12, 2002|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,SUN STAFF

The Blast would jump at the chance of fast-forwarding to next week and the Major Indoor Soccer League playoffs, but unfinished business that could prove worthwhile in the regular season remains.

Tonight's game in Milwaukee is a mere test run for next Friday, when the team goes back to the Bradley Center to take on the first-place Wave in a one-game semifinal playoff.

Still, things can be learned, an additional comfort level can be found and a statement can be made tonight as the fourth-place Blast (18-24) tries to do what no team has been able to do against the Wave (32-10) this regular season: win in Milwaukee's building.

Milwaukee will take a 21-0 home mark into the game in a bid to become the first team in league history to complete a perfect home regular season. Wave coach Keith Tozer also goes after his 500th career win.

"We want to make sure we show up and play our game," said Blast midfielder Denison Cabral, who was named MISL Offensive Player of the Week. "Playing in the Bradley Center, everybody pretty much thinks we're going to lose, that nobody is winning against Milwaukee in Milwaukee. We want to earn some respect. Hopefully, we can get a win there this weekend, but we know the most important thing is still keeping everybody healthy to go into the playoffs and get the job done."

A 20-18 road win against Kansas City on April 4 was followed by an 18-6 win against Harrisburg on Saturday to assure the Blast the final playoff spot and a meeting with the Wave in the opening round. After tonight's game in Milwaukee, the Blast will close its regular season against the Cleveland Crunch tomorrow night at the Baltimore Arena.

The goal for the Blast this weekend?

Keep everybody healthy, learn what it can about the Wave, and try to go into the postseason playing its best ball of the season.

"We're going to be looking at whatever they're willing to show - tendencies on free kicks, how they make their runs off a target player, any little advantage we can exploit with the players they have on the field, and just try to get more comfortable on their field," said Blast defender Lance Johnson.

Any little bit can help. The Blast is 1-6 against the Wave overall and 0-3 in Milwaukee. But each time the Blast played in Milwaukee, it came after a game the night before.

"It's the first time we'll be able to get in there a day in advance, so we'll be able to practice there in the morning and get another chance to play in their facility," said Blast coach Kevin Healey. "We're looking at every tape of every game, and we're piecing everything together. We're going to be completely prepared for the 19th, and Milwaukee will be completely prepared for the 19th. We'll take what happens in this game and add it to what we've already seen from the tapes."

After a frustrating, injury-filled, inconsistent regular season, the Blast welcomes the opportunity to visit defending league champ Milwaukee come playoff time.

"I think most teams maybe wouldn't be prepared for a one-game playoff in Milwaukee, or even a little scared, because they're 20-0 at home or whatever," said Blast defender Sean Bowers. "But for us, we take it as a challenge, to be honest with you. We've got to go through Milwaukee, anyway, whether it's now or it's the finals, so it's something we're kind of relishing. We're ready to go in there and show we belong."

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