Blast sends it to wire by beating Wave, 15-12

MISL season comes down to Friday in Milwaukee


April 14, 2003|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,SUN STAFF

There was an outstanding second-quarter burst of offense from the Blast, followed by an impressive third-quarter defensive front against the Milwaukee Wave.

But probably the most special moment in last night's second game of the Major Indoor Soccer League's best-of-three final series was the very last, when a vocal crowd of 7,436 at 1st Mariner Arena stood and applauded as the Blast came away with a 15-12 win that sent the team back to Milwaukee's Bradley Center for a third and deciding game Friday at 8:05 p.m.

First things first, and that was the Blast's effort to get there.

Tarik Walker scored two two-point goals; P.J. Wakefield recorded a goal and an assist, and Giuliano Celenza, returning from an injured foot to see his first action in nine games, scored a key goal in the second-quarter frenzy.

Brett Phillips turned away 17 Wave shots -- the last a three-point try from Troy Dusosky in the final minute. And when Phillips was sent off to serve a two-minute penalty in the third quarter, a cold Scott Hileman got hot fast with four saves.

As has been the case in the entire second-half surge for the Blast, it was a collective effort that got the job done.

"This has just been an unbelievable ride," Blast coach Bobby McAvan said. "Talk about sacrifice. I think this Baltimore team down the stretch has shown unbelievable character.

"We knew that Milwaukee just never goes away easily. They certainly showed great character in their comeback, but I believe our guys thoroughly deserved the win tonight. They went about it in a professional, workmanlike manner."

Finishing the deal will be no easy chore for the Blast. The team was 0-2 against the Wave at the Bradley Center during the regular season. All of the bounces went Milwaukee's way in the championship opener on Saturday, a 19-12 win.

But here's something to consider: Last season, the Philadelphia KiXX were 0-4 against the Wave in Milwaukee and also lost the first game in the championship series, only to find a way to sneak out an 8-6 win to end the Wave's run of two straight crowns.

Taking an 11-4 lead into the fourth quarter after blanking the Wave in the third, the Blast saw Martin Dugas and Joe Reiniger score to cut the lead to 11-8. But Denison Cabral answered and Tarik Walker had the last word, a reassuring goal on a pass from P.J. Wakefield with 4:30 left for a 15-10 lead.

"I got pretty freed up when P.J. got the ball off the boards," said Walker. "A little juke here and a little juke there -- P.J. floated a nice ball into me to the back post."

After Brian Loftin scored less than a minute later to get the Wave to within 15-12, Phillips and a do-what-was necessary defense in front of him handled Milwaukee's extra attacker to preserve the win.

"One of the times we played Milwaukee, we were up 17-6 and they scored nine points on the sixth attacker," Phillips said.

"We knew they were going to come out flying, regardless of what the score was. We knew we had to buckle down and the main thing was we just didn't want them to celebrate on our field."

Now the question for McAvan is who will start in goal on the Wave's field. Phillips and Hileman have both earned the nod, but there's only one net to mind.

"That's a huge question," said McAvan. "Maybe we've got the coin right here in the pocket. I'm not going to give [away] anything just yet."

Relentless pressure up front -- with midfielder Allen Eller the primary pest -- put the Wave's usually sure defense in a second-quarter panic that helped the Blast build a 9-4 lead at the half. Included were some quality setups and finishes from the Blast, which sent 17 shots at Milwaukee goalkeeper Victor Nogueira in the home team's big offensive quarter.

With the game 2-2 entering the period, the Blast took the lead for good on an easy tap-in from Jason Dieter after a long run and fine pass across from defender Billy Nelson for a 4-2 lead.

Less than two minutes later, forward Lee Tschantret settled a ball with his knee and struck it on its way down with his left foot for a three-pointer

Milwaukee 2 2 0 8 -- 12

Blast 2 7 2 4 -- 15

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