Blast's title hopes ride on Cabral, Walker

Tonight in Milwaukee, duo to reach for crown

April 18, 2003|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,SUN STAFF

Blast midfielder Denison Cabral was on the telephone to Brazil on Sunday morning, listening to his dad talk about his No. 1-b favorite player.

"Tarik Walker can't imagine how big a fan he has in Brazil," Cabral said. "Dad asked me: Please tell Tarik that I want two goals from him tonight."

Sure enough, Walker's second goal that night - coming late in the fourth quarter to seal a 15-12 win over the Milwaukee Wave - helped send the Major Indoor Soccer League championship series to a deciding third game tonight in Milwaukee.

His steady scoring partner, Cabral, the Blast's leader with 79 points during the regular season, had a key goal earlier in the quarter.

Broad-shouldered, 6 feet 2 and 195 pounds, Walker is mountainous by soccer standards at the forward position and he uses that leverage to the fullest in close. Diminutive, 5-4 and 160 pounds, Cabral is as quick and crafty as they come with his Brazilian style always pouring out of the team's midfield.

Combined, the Blast's top two scorers during the regular season have given the team a power-and-lightning kind of one-two punch that has been virtually unstoppable in the postseason. Both players have 11 points in the first four playoff games: Walker four two-point goals and three assists, and Cabral had five two-pointers and one assist.

Blast coach Bobby McAvan has singled out their raised level of play as the biggest of so many positive factors that has the team still playing.

"It's like David and Goliath except they have joined forces," said McAvan. "But they have the same size heart and both of them are so passionate about the game."

That intensity made the team's 5-12 start tough on them both, and it has made the playoff ride especially rewarding. A win tonight and the Blast can return home with the 11-year franchise's first championship and Baltimore's second (McAvan and assistant coach Timmy Wittman were teammates when the Blast of the first MISL won the 1983-84 championship).

"The comfort level is huge right now," said Walker, who finished the regular season with 64 points. "I don't know if I'm doing too many things different. I just think that I'm feeling a lot more confident and that comes with winning and putting the ball in the back of the net."

Walker is 31, single, laid-back, likes R&B, hip-hop and seafood. Cabral is 29, married and loves spending his time away from soccer chasing around his 18-month-old daughter, Daniela. Just about any music works for him, and so does Italian food.

The two also have different ways in finding the net.

"Tarik's thing is getting in front, turning and going at people. Denison has a flair for that quick juke that gets him past people," said McAvan. "For both of them, we like to isolate them so they can do their thing against an opponent."

Trying to solve Cabral's thing has stumped opponents.

In the Blast's series-opening loss in Milwaukee on Saturday, Cabral found himself one-on-one with the Wave's Victor Nogueira, and then put his creativity to work by using finesse instead of power to get a shot past the keeper.

With Nogueira way out off his line, Cabral scooped a ball over the keeper's head, then went around him and, when the shot hit off the top panel above the crossbar, he casually followed it in. He did the same thing in the fourth-quarter shootout goal in the second game, with Nogueira getting a piece of the first shot but unable to handle Cabral's follow shot.

"Most guys wouldn't have the guts to try something like that. But he does and he does it well and he does it confidently and repetitively. It's amazing," said Blast captain Lance Johnson.

It's also Cabral.

"I'm just having some fun, but I've gotten to the point now where I know I can make a difference and I'm going to do my best to do it," he said.

As for Walker, he almost dares to be stopped.

"Tarik wants the ball," said veteran forward Lee Tschantret. "Not that he didn't want the ball before, but he's got great confidence, his movements are down and when somebody is like that - you get him the ball as much as you can. You got to ride the guys who are hot."

Blast vs. Wave

What: Major Indoor Soccer League championship series

Format: Best of three

Series: Tied 1-1

Game 3: Today, 8:05 p.m.

Site: Bradley Center, Milwaukee

Radio: WJFK (1300 AM)

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