Handsor gives Blast Eastern title, 4-3

Win over KiXX means first-round playoff bye


March 28, 2004|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

PHILADELPHIA - With 4:45 left to play last night in a tie game, Philadelphia KiXX defender Jeremy Aldrich attempted to step in front of the Blast's Chris Handsor in the attack zone only to see Handsor turn away from him for an easy - well, not easy, but wide-open - kick to the far post.

The shot caught Philadelphia's All-Star goalie, Peter Pappas, at the opposite side of the net and, when the ball crossed the goal line, Handsor threw his wrist band into the crowd of 6,214 at the Wachovia Spectrum and joined his teammates in a brief celebration.

There were still nearly five minutes left, but with the way the Blast was playing defense last night, almost everyone knew that goal was going to stand up for a 4-3 victory.

The win clinched the Eastern Division title for the Blast with two games to play in the regular season.

The division title means the Blast will have a first-round bye in the Major Indoor Soccer League playoffs, plus home-field advantage in the semifinals, where it very likely could see the KiXX again.

"I was very fortunate that the ball took a funny bounce and that I saw the far corner open," said Handsor of his game-winner.

"I just tried to put the ball in that open spot. I was very fortunate that Peter Pappas was close to the near post. It turned out to be a great goal for me, but an even bigger goal for the team."

Both sides produced defensive gems, but it was the Blast that held Philadelphia to 14 shots while getting off 32 of its own.

"When we play defense like that, we're very tough," said Blast defender Danny Kelly, who demonstrated veteran leadership shortly after the start of the second half, when the KiXX's Ze Roberto tied the game at 3 just 1:17 into the period.

The Blast scored first at 10:17 of the first period when Denison Cabral put away a rebound of a tough shot from near midfield by Ibrahim Kante before Pappas could turn around.

Philadelphia countered with a goal by David DiPlacido 14 seconds later and the game remained tied at 1 until the 6:03 mark of the second period.

That's when the Blast's Giuliano Celenza scored the first of his two goals. The second came on a power play after Pappas dove head first into a swarm of feet to make a save and was called for a handball out of the box.

"This was a big win, but the season isn't over," said Celenza, who scored two goals. "We can't let down now. We still want to catch Milwaukee and earn the best overall record and home field throughout the playoffs."

Blast 1 2 0 1 - 4

Philadelphia 1 1 1 0 - 3

First quarter: 1. Blast, Cabral (Kante) 10:17; 2. Philadelphia, DiPlacido (Vasic) 10:31.Penalties: Blast, Kelly (pushing) 6:08; Philadelphia, Brooks (pushing) 6:08. Second quarter: 3. Blast, Celenza (Tschantret) 6:03; 4. Philadelphia, DiPlacido (McPeak) 6:44; 5. Blast, Celenza (Kelly) (power play) 9:56. Penalties: Philadelphia, Pappas (handball) 9:43; Philadelphia, DiPlacido (holding)13:39. Third quarter: 6. Philadelphia, Roberto (Vincello) 1:17. Penalties: Philadelphia, McPeak (kicking) 4:42. Fourth quarter: 7. Blast, Handsor (Hileman) 10:15. Penalties: None. Shots on goal: Blast-6-10-8-8-32; Philadelphia-6-3-3-2-14.Power-play opportunities: Blast 1-for-3; Philadelphia 0-for-0.Shootout opportunities: Blast 0-for-0; Philadelphia 0-for-0.Goalkeepers: Blast-Hileman, 5 saves; Philadelphia-Pappas, 14 saves, Dobson, 0 saves, Vasic, 1 save. A: 6,214.

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