Eyes on playoffs, Blast hit with loss

In season finale, Crunch scores 11 goals after half in 16-10 win

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April 14, 2002|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,SUN STAFF

With most of its attention already focused toward Friday's playoff opener in Milwaukee, the Blast surrendered a 16-10 decision last night to the lowly Cleveland Crunch in a regular-season finale at Baltimore Arena that typified the home team's underachieving campaign.

A crowd of 4,782 on fan appreciation night watched the visiting Crunch - at 15-28, long eliminated from postseason play - outscore the home team 11-4 in the second half to win going away.

One of the only bright spots for the Blast (18-26) was a three-goal performance from midfielder Denison Cabral, who finished with eight hat tricks on the season to lead the team in scoring with 133 points. It wasn't nearly enough.

"I think the biggest disappointment was to lose at home, our last game that was like a night for the fans," Cabral said. "We came out after losing [Friday in Milwaukee], and two losses in a row doesn't help going into the playoffs. But I think the biggest disappointment was losing in front of our own crowd. They can bet that we're going to go hard in Milwaukee and do our best."

The Blast has five days to change habits in a bid to knock off the first-place Milwaukee Wave in a one-game Major Indoor Soccer League semifinal. The Philadelphia KiXX will visit the Kansas City Comets in the other semifinal, with the winners meeting in a three-game championship series.

"We certainly wanted to go into Milwaukee in a winning fashion, but I think we'll be prepared for the game and obviously we're going to need performances from everybody," said Blast coach Kevin Healey. "We respect Milwaukee. Anybody who goes undefeated at home - nobody in this league has done that before - so you certainly have to respect that, but we're not afraid of it."

All the numbers are against the Blast going into Friday.

Along with the Wave's flawless 22-0 mark at home, Baltimore was a porous 6-16 on the road. In its four losses in Milwaukee, the Blast allowed 47 points while scoring 26 - never reaching double digits in any of the games.

"We all have to keep in mind that we have to bring our best game, best effort and the hardest work ever," Cabral said.

A stronger second half than last night's will certainly be a must.

After Cabral finished off a bicycle kick to give the Blast an 8-5 lead early in the third quarter, the Crunch slowly took over, getting goals from Giuliano Oliviero, Jeff Deist and Shayne Campbell to take a 12-8 lead it would never relinquish. After Cabral added his third goal to cut the Crunch lead to 12-10 with 12:45 left in regulation, John Ball closed out the scoring with two two-pointers.

NOTES: The Blast had 109,056 fans walk through the Baltimore Arena doors for its 22 regular-season home games, an average of 4,957. Last season, the team averaged 5,367. The Blast rested midfielder Danny Kelly (foot) and Giuliano Celenza (shin splints) and also expects to have backup goalkeeper Karim Mounban (ankle) ready if needed on Friday.

Cleveland 0 5 7 4 - 16

Blast 2 4 2 2 - 10

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