PHILADELPHIA - The Blast's Major Indoor Soccer League playoff hopes aren't dead yet.
After four straight losses and eight in its previous 10 games, the Blast was clearly on the ropes heading into yesterday's meeting with the Philadelphia KiXX, a team that had beaten the Blast five of the seven times they'd met in 2004-05.
But Lee Tschantret's liner past goalie Peter Pappas and into the upper left corner of the net 12 minutes into overtime produced a dramatic, 4-3 decision over the KiXX at the Wachovia Spectrum, restoring the visiting team's optimism.
It was just the 11th time the Blast had won in 31 appearances in this building over the years, and it revived talk of a postseason for the two-time defending MISL champion.
Injuries, disciplinary actions and bad luck have hampered the Blast, but coach Tim Wittman went so far as to say, "If we get into the playoffs, we'll win it all.
"Even some of the people that are playing are injured, and that's the real problem, because you can't practice," Wittman said. "Sometimes you're practicing with nine guys, eight guys. You can't go full out. They never get really fit, and that's the frustrating part."
But the Blast - which had dropped a 7-3 decision to Cleveland on Friday night - wasn't about to let this one escape.
The KiXX, coming off a 7-3 win in St. Louis Saturday night, built a 3-1 lead, only to see the Blast rally to tie and win in the extra session.
Turning it all around was a defensive effort that kept the KiXX scoreless for more than 55 minutes.
The KiXX's Pappas - like Blast goalie Sagu - had eight saves, but Tschantret's game-breaker was unstoppable.
"This was an overtime game. It was intense. Guys were blocking and flying all over the place," Tschantret said.
"We were really disappointed after Friday. We've worked hard, but it's been a tough season. Today, we were all on the same page.
"Giuliano [Celenza] laid a great ball, and I just kind of redirected it on target [for the winner].
"Pete [Pappas, a former teammate of Tschantret's in indoor and outdoor leagues] was coming out, but he couldn't come out too far, we were shooting so well."
A look at the MISL standings gives the Blast reason for hope. The team may be 14-19 and tied for sixth in the seven-team league, but six games remain and three of the teams directly ahead of the Blast - St. Louis, Chicago and Kansas City - have been having problems recently.
The setback ended the KiXX's four-game winning streak, but they're still on the brink of clinching a berth in the four-team playoffs. At 20-15, they trail only the Milwaukee Wave.
Player-coach Don D'Ambra had the KiXX's first two goals yesterday and assisted on the third, Gary Brooks' liner past Sagu just 28 seconds into the second quarter.
Resilience was another key for the Blast.
Celenza, set up by Danny Kelly, tied it 10:31 into the first period, 33 seconds after D'Ambra's goal.
Down 3-1, the Blast responded with an unassisted goal by Scott Schweitzer 1:36 into the second, and Kelly, assisted by Sipho Sibiya, got the equalizer 8:16 into the third.
Blast defenders kept the KiXX from capitalizing on a pair of power-play opportunities as the game headed into overtime.
"It started great for us, but [the Blast is] a quality team. They battled back. Give them credit," Pappas said.
A Midwest trip, to Cleveland on Friday and Kansas City on Saturday, is next for the Blast.
Blast 1 1 1 0 1 - 4
Philadelphia 2 1 0 0 0 - 3
Goals: B-Celenza, Kelly, Schweitzer, Tschantret; P-D'Ambra 2, Brooks. Assists: B-Celenza, Kelly; P-Roberto 2, D'Ambra. Saves: B-Sagu 8; P-Pappas 8.