Blast bids to finish season on high note

Though no playoffs ahead, still something to prove

Pro Soccer

April 22, 2005|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

Good indoor soccer players -- and good athletes in general -- know how to turn a disappointment into an advantage, or how to forget about a bad loss and go on to the next game.

The Blast (15-22) has had several bad losses lately. It has lost a two-goal lead to fall in overtime to the Kansas City Comets and be eliminated from playoff contention. And it followed that up by blowing a 4-1 lead over the final 13 minutes against the Chicago Storm to also lose in overtime.

Now comes the Cleveland Force here tonight and an afternoon game in Milwaukee on Sunday that will wrap up its Major Indoor Soccer League Season. What anyone can expect from the Blast in the two games is a mystery.

"We've gone out to win every game," said Blast general manager Kevin Healey. "Even in Chicago, we were playing hard. But it goes back to winning breeds winning and losing breeds losing. It's a confidence issue. Lose and you start to worry when anything goes wrong."

But, Healey said that this weekend, even though "things just aren't going right at the moment," the Blast hopes to finish on a good note.

One of the things that most puzzles Blast coach Tim Wittman is his team's lack of energy in the second half. Leads have evaporated all season as the Blast has been outplayed badly in the third period and lately in the fourth.

There are those, Healey included, who are focused on beating Cleveland tonight partly because the Force is coming to 1st Mariner Arena looking to keep its hopes alive for winning the No. 1 seed in the playoffs.

"We're the [two-time defending] champions," Healey said. "We don't want to be a team that lets another team come into our building needing a win and lets them get it. We don't want to roll over. We're a winning organization, and we need to prove that."

Wittman, whose voice rises in frustration at the way this season has gone, has a different perspective. Players, he said, are supposed to win every game.

"It doesn't matter who you're playing or when," he said. "If that mattered, then there would be nights when it would be all right to lose, and it's never all right to lose. You come to the game for a reason -- to do your best. It's that simple."

And that's why his team's lack of second-half energy mystifies him.

"Do we go out in the third period with a lack of desire? With a lack of heart?" he asked. "Is it because of injuries and we're just tired? If it's injuries, we're doing what we can. If it's one of those other things, no one can tell you on the field what to do about it. You do it or you don't. No one can pump you up."

Blast tonight

Matchup: Cleveland Force (21-16) vs. Blast (15-22)

Site: 1st Mariner Arena

Time: 7:35

Radio: WCBM (680 AM)

Outlook: There are two games left for the Blast, and given the way it has failed to hold on to leads in its previous two games, the end can't come soon enough. Cleveland, on the other hand, still has an outside chance to win the MISL's regular-season title and earn the No. 1 seed in the playoffs. To do that, the Force must win tonight and then return to Cleveland tomorrow and beat the Milwaukee Wave. But then the Force has to hope the Blast can go into Milwaukee on Sunday and beat the Wave in its final game of the season. With the Blast on a three-game losing streak in which it has blown leads - the last a 4-1 advantage in Chicago in the final period - coming into tonight's match, leaving the Force's fate in the Blast's hands is anything but a sure bet. Tonight, the Blast will be without Denison Cabral, Adilson De Lima and Carlos Garcia (knee operations), Marcos Chantel (groin surgery) and Joel Bailey (groin). Mike Apple (quadriceps) is doubtful.

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