CLEVELAND - The Blast made what might have been its last appearance here memorable, squeaking out a 7-6 win over the Force last night.
The victory allowed the Blast to continue clinging to hopes of making the Major Indoor Soccer League playoffs, moving within three games of the Force, which holds the fourth and final playoff berth despite last month's announcement that operations will be suspended unless a new owner is found.
The Blast survived a 20-4 barrage of Cleveland shots in the final quarter. Six Force attempts came in the final 3:51 with goalkeeper Jim Larkin benched in favor of a sixth attacker as the Force tried to overcome a 7-5 deficit.
Aduato Neto's goal at 11:36 narrowed the gap to 7-6, but the Blast defense did the job the rest of the way, as Sagu made 10 saves in the quarter to keep the Blast on top.
The Blast also was able to overcome a 31-19 deficit in fouls and a 23-8 deficit in penalty minutes.
"There were so many fouls," said Blast coach Tim Wittman. "I'm disgusted right now. We couldn't get a rhythm going, there were so many fouls. We just let them back in the game."
Lee Tschantret agreed with his coach, saying: "The game was filled with penalties. It wasn't real fun to play in."
The Blast broke out on top on an unassisted goal by Billy Nelson, and Tschantret followed with a power-play goal at 9:48. The Force came back to tie it when Genoni Martinez and Robbie Aristodemo scored 14 seconds apart.
Tschantret was assessed 10 minutes in penalties at the end of the first quarter on consecutive dissent calls, and a third call on the Blast bench gave Cleveland a power play opportunity, but the Force couldn't capitalize.
The Blast took a 5-2 lead into the locker room at halftime, thanks to two goals from David Bascome, and Sipho Sibiya's goal with 1:52 to go.
The third quarter, a problem for the Blast all season, proved the same last night. Cleveland clawed into a tie with three goals in the quarter. The Blast has been outscored 60-35 in the third quarter this season.
As the third quarter ended, though, the momentum shifted as Cleveland's Gary DePalma was penalized for kicking. Mike Apple found Giuliano Celenza in front of the Cleveland goal, and Celenza converted, notching his 31st goal, 42 seconds into the quarter.
Wendell Regis scored what proved to be the game-winner from well behind the yellow line with 5:24 to go. The unassisted goal put the Blast up by two and set the stage for the final frantic finish.
Blast 2 2 1 2 - 7
Cleveland 2 0 3 1 - 6
Goals: Blast - Bascome 2, Nelson, Celenza, Regis, Tschantret, Sibiya; Cle. - Neto 2, Martinez, Gilbert, Aristodemo, Sutton. Assists: Blast - Apple, Kelly, Houser; Cle. Martinez, Gilbert, Ball, Susi, Sutton. Saves: Blast - Sagu 23, Tschantret 0; Cle. - Larkin 16, Aristodemo 0.