Blast heads for playoffs on a roll

14-8 win over Dallas in regular-season finale is fifth in six games

Soccer

March 24, 2003|By Scott Farrell | Scott Farrell,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

DALLAS -- An inspired half can mean everything to a team. The Blast's second-half surge last night was the difference in a 14-8 win over the Dallas Sidekicks that sent them into the playoffs soaring with five wins in their past six games.

The win pushed the Blast's second-half record to 12-6 and closed its regular-season record at 18-18. Its recent success gave the Blast a shot at second place in the Eastern Division. But Cleveland's 11-8 win at Philadelphia earlier yesterday meant the Blast will travel to Cleveland for its first-round playoff match next weekend.

"Tonight's game means everything for the playoffs," Blast coach Bobby McAvan said. "We came from behind on the road in a tough situation against an inspired team. We've won four of our last five on the road, so going to Cleveland doesn't seem as daunting now."

Trailing 4-2 at intermission, the Blast took control early in the second half, drawing even within two minutes and taking the lead within four. Denison Cabral blasted a shot off a restart-foul pass from Sean Bowers at the 1:53 mark. Tarik Walker scored his 19th goal of the season alone from the right side two minutes later, and the Blast never trailed from there.

Cabral, one of the league's scoring leaders with 72 points coming in, came free from a stack near the top of the Dallas circle. His quick pass to Lance Johnson resulted in the Blast's third unanswered goal at the 10:05 mark.

Cabral added a second goal in the fourth quarter, heading in his miss in the middle of a slow-to-react Dallas defense. The Blast's third-quarter control showed on the score sheet with three goals on seven shots in the period.

"We were only down by a goal on the road, so it was a matter of playing more inspired in the second half," Blast keeper Brett Phillips said. "The news about Cleveland left us a little down at the start."

Phillips saved 17 of 32 shots.

The Sidekicks managed a brief rally, netting a power-play goal from Tatu to draw within 10-6. But sloppy defense created another Blast opportunity. Johnson stole a ball from Dallas' Nick Stavrou outside the arc and got a sharp pass over to P.J. Wakefield, who caught Sagu turned to the other side for his 23rd goal.

The game was the last as a player for Dallas' Tatu, who scored a hat trick in the final game of his 21-year career. Tatu ranks second all-time indoors in goals (857), assists (728), points (1,582), shots (4,392) and game-winning goals (77). He will stay on as head coach.

Blast 0 2 6 6 -- 14 Dallas 2 2 0 4 -- 8

First quarter: 1. Dallas, Tatu (Valdivia), 6:30.

Second quarter: 2. Blast, Dieter (Eller), 5:41; 3. Dallas, Pedroso (Doyle), 6:42. Penalties: Dallas, Doyle (misconduct), 8:41; Blast, Bowers (tripping), 12:32;

Third quarter: 4. Blast, Cabral (Bowers), 1:53; 5. Blast, Walker, 4:03; 6. Blast, Johnson (Cabral), 10:05. Penalties: Dallas, Valdivia (dissent), 9:02;

Fourth quarter: 7. Blast, Cabral, 2:14; 8. Dallas, Tatu (Pedroso), 4:10; 9. Blast, Wakefield (Johnson), 7:27; 10. Tatu (Stavrou), 12:27; 11. Blast, Johnson, 12:52. Penalties: Blast, Tschantret (kicking), 3:02; Blast, Eller, 4:47.

Shots on goal: Blast 22, Dallas32. Power-play opportunities: Blast 0-0, Dallas 1-1. Saves: Blast, Phillips 7-4-3-3--17; Dallas, Sagu 3-3-4-3--13; Doyle 0-0-0-0--0. A: 7,303.

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