Blast takes fizz out of Force, 14-6

Wakefield, DiFlorio help pave way in opening win


October 06, 2002|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,SUN STAFF

Blast rookie forward P.J. Wakefield wasn't even in kindergarten when veteran newcomer Gino DiFlorio started his professional indoor soccer career.

Last night, the two shared the field for the first time as well as the season-opening spotlight, providing much of the punch that led the Blast to an electrifying, 14-6 win over the Cleveland Force before 8,853 at First Mariner Arena.

Wakefield, a Calvert Hall and UMBC standout, scored on his first shift and later provided the game-winner as the Blast overwhelmed the visiting Force in the fourth quarter.

DiFlorio, 38 and in his 19th professional season, showed no effects from the knee surgery he had last December while displaying a sharp sense of where his teammates were with three assists.

Midfielder Paul Wright scored three goals, the last two as the Blast got three in a 1:05 stretch midway through the fourth quarter to complete a stellar second half.

With the Blast holding a 6-4 lead early in the fourth quarter, the rookie and the veteran connected - Wakefield jumping into the penalty area and taking a pass in stride from DiFlorio, and then making no mistake for his second goal of the night.

It was Wakefield's first goal - just 1:50 into play - that helped him settle in.

"I just wanted to go in and help, get my confidence up and I ended up scoring a goal which really helped," Wakefield said. "I used to have season tickets when I was younger, grew up watching Billy Ronson and Tim Wittman, so it was real exciting for me and especially having my family here to watch."

The Blast was fortunate to get out of the first half with the game tied at 4. The Force doubled the home team in shots, 16-8, and had the ball much of the first 30 minutes, but could only get two shots past keeper Scott Hileman.

Wakefield made his first Blast shift a memorable one when he worked a quick give-and-go with Danny Santoro and then finished off a chance from 10 yards for a 2-0 lead 1:50 into play.

The Blast then went scoreless for 26-plus minutes - the Force taking a 4-2 lead - before midfielder Wright volleyed home a power-play goal with 1:23 left in the half to tie it.

"I think at halftime we just said we want to go back to basics," said Blast coach Kevin Healey. "We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to win this game, and we weren't keeping the ball or showing composure on the ball or moving without it in the first half.

"They were coming with high pressure, so we stressed if we could get good communication, good fundamentals and good movement, we could break them down, and I think that's what we did."

NOTES: The Blast started the season without midfielder J.J. Kremer (stress fracture of the foot) and forward Giuliano Celenza (stress fracture of the shin). Kremer will likely miss all of October, but Celenza is aiming to return for the Blast's next home game on Oct. 19 against the Milwaukee Wave. ... DiFlorio came to the Blast with an impressive resume. The 38-year-old forward ranks among the top 10 all-time in the MISL in six categories, including second in career goals with 612. ... The Blast sported new jerseys - red with white trim around the shoulders - and the arena has new artificial turf.

Cleveland 2 2 0 2 - 6

Blast 2 2 2 8 - 14

First quarter - 1. Blast, Wakefield, 2 pt. (Santoro), 1:50; 2. Cleveland, Evans, 2 pt. (Newsom), 8:03. Penalties - Cleveland, Butcher (holding), 4:57. Second quarter - 3. Cleveland, Stathopoulos, 2 pt., 12:22; 4. Blast, Wright, 2 pt., (DiFlorio), 13:37. Penalties - Cleveland, Ball, (tripping), 12:52. Third quarter - 5. Blast, Walker, 2 pt. (DiFlorio), 9:56. Penalties - Blast, Johnson, (two-footed tackle), 10:41; Blast, Tschantret, (five-minute misconduct). Fourth quarter - 6. Blast, Wakefield, 2 pt., (DiFlorio), 1:47; 7. Cleveland, Marinaro, 2 pt., 5:04 8. Blast, Wright, 2 pt., (Santoro) 9:41; 9. Blast, Wright, 2 pt., (Bader), 10:24; 10. Blast, Cabral, 2 pt., 10:46. Penalties - Blast, Bowers, (tripping), 5:00; Cleveland, Maher, (holding), 9:04. Shots on goal-Cleveland 9-7-2-8 - 26; Blast 4-4-6-9 - 23. Power-play opportunities-Cleveland 0-for-1; Blast 2-for-3. Shootout opportunities-Cleveland 1-for-1; Blast 0-for-0. Goalkepers-Cleveland, Larkin, 16 shots, 9 saves, Ball 2 shots, 2 saves; Blast, Hileman, 12 shots, 9 saves. A-8,853.

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