Blast able to hold on against league-leading Steamers for 5-4 victory

Wittman likes first half, but late play upsets him

Pro Soccer

February 06, 2005|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

Before the game, St. Louis coach Daryl Doran said he feared three things in Baltimore - the speed of Machel Millwood and Tarik Walker and 1st Mariner Arena's small field that makes a team's counterattack so potent.

Two of those three fears were well-founded. Among the Blast's first three goals last night was one by Millwood and a counter-attack goal by P.J. Wakefield - and those anchored the home team's 5-4 victory.

The loss dropped the Steamers (15-10) a half-game behind Philadephia in the chase for the No. 1 seed in the Major Indoor Soccer League standings, while lifting the Blast (11-11) a game ahead of Kansas City in the struggle for the fourth and last playoff spot.

But none of it satisfied Blast coach Tim Wittman, who was disturbed by the way his team was overrun by St. Louis in the final period for three goals that turned the game into a nail-biter for the 5,110 fans.

And, he said, he was also irritated by the lack of effort on the part of some of his players.

Who those players are, he would not say, but anyone looking at the team stats could easily decipher a few possibilities. Giuliano Celenza, who had a three-goal game last week and has been leading the team in scoring over the past nine games with 10 goals and five assists, had just one assist last night.

And Chile Farias, who scored what turned out to be the game-winning goal with 8:46 gone in the fourth period and leads the team in scoring for the season, had only three shots on goal all night.

In the fourth, St. Louis, which has played six games in nine days, seemed to get stronger while the Blast, which had a week off, faltered.

"The first half, we played well," Wittman said of a 3-1 lead. "But then we let up. There has to be more intensity. People have to want to come to play. There aren't any excuses. In that first half, we hit posts and sidebars and [Steamers goaltender] Brett Phillips played great. But so what? It could have been 5-0.

"And we don't want to let them back in the game ... that's what eats at me."

The game started 25 minutes late because the Steamers showed up in their home orange jerseys. That meant the Blast, which normally wears red at home, had to send to Du Burns Arena for its road whites.

But the Blast still started fast. With 3:29 gone, Millwood scored for the 1-0 lead. Neil Gilbert scored on a free kick and then Wakefield (two goals) produced short-handed for a 3-1 lead.

"We knew they had played the night before and that they'd be tired," said Wakefield. "We wanted to take advantage of that and we went with a high-pressure attack at the start."

Said St. Louis forward Shaun David (two goals): "I think it was a mental thing. We came in off our victory in Milwaukee [5-4] and thought this game would be easy."

St. Louis 0 1 0 3 - 4

Blast 1 2 0 2 - 5

First quarter - 1, Blast, Millwood (Celenza) 3:29. Penalties - None. Second quarter -2, Blast, Gilbert (RSG) 1:13. 3, Blast, Wakefield (Hare) (SHG) 3:42. 4, Stl, David 12:59. Penalties - Nelson, Blast (Tripping), 3:16. Third quarter - None. Penalties - None. Fourth quarter: 5, Blast, Wakefield 7:28. 6, Stl David 7:39. 7, Stl Houser (Doran) 7:57. 8, Blast, Farias (Eller) 8:46. 9, Stl Houser (Wescott) 13:00. Penalties- Doran, Stl (Dissent), 11:33. Shots on goal - St. Louis 7-9-5-8 - 29; Blast 7-6-2-8 - 23. Power-play conversions - St. Louis -- 0-1, Blast 0-0. Goalies - St. Louis -Phillips (19, 14, 5, 58:33) Jeff DiMaria (0, 0, 0, 1:27); Blast - Rowland (19, 15, 4, 60:00). A - 5,110.

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