Balanced effort lifts Blast to victory

Team ties Milwaukee in race for home field

Blast 7 Steamers 6

Pro Soccer

April 01, 2006|By JEFF SEIDEL | JEFF SEIDEL,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Blast player-interim coach Danny Kelly said his team has shifted into "playoff mode."

That includes playing consistent defense, doing the little things and converting scoring chances. The Blast did that Sunday against Philadelphia and continued last night against St. Louis. Carlos Garcia scored twice, and goalie Sagu got his first assist of the season and made several big saves to help the Blast edge the Steamers, 7-6, before 7,856 in the final regular-season home game at 1st Mariner Arena.

Milwaukee's loss to Chicago dropped the Wave into a second-place tie with the Blast. Both teams are 17-11 with two games left, and a loss could have locked the Blast out of second place as Milwaukee gets the tiebreaker if both teams finish even.

The Blast wants second place because the home-field advantage comes with it for the first round of the playoffs - where it will play Milwaukee. The Blast's final two regular-season games are at Chicago tomorrow and in Philadelphia next Saturday.

St. Louis (21-7) has clinched first place, so the game meant little to the Steamers.

Kelly has been emphasizing the importance of good team defense and getting up and down the field quickly. The Blast got away from those things during its recent four-game losing streak but was consistent in those areas last night.

"That's what we've been talking about," said Kelly, who had a goal and an assist. "As long as we play good team defense and create turnovers, we're going to give ourselves a chance."

The Blast had a balanced attack. Nine players either scored a goal or had an assist. Garcia continued his recent strong play, scoring both of his goals in the first half.

"[Kelly] gives me confidence; he's letting me go," Garcia said. "We're getting chances and also not letting [opponents] score."

Sagu finished with 14 saves, several on diving stops that frustrated St. Louis.

He also got his first assist with a perfect outlet pass that sprung Garcia on a breakaway and let the forward score on a breakaway in the second quarter.

The Blast scored three of the final four goals of the first half to take a 5-3 lead at the half. Billy Nelson's goal with 23.8 seconds left gave the Blast a two-goal lead.

St. Louis had cut the lead to one on Jeff DiMaria's goal with 1:17 left. But Kelly sent a pass from midfield to Nelson racing along the right wing. Nelson then curled a 20-foot shot past St. Louis goalie Bayard Elfvin and inside the far post for the 5-3 lead.

The Blast never trailed, but the Steamers wouldn't go away. Giuliano Celenza one-timed P.J. Wakefield's pass into an open net for a 6-3 lead with 5:48 left in the third period. Jonny Steele knocked in a loose ball from in front to make it 7-4 with 10:17 remaining in the game, but the Steamers scored the final two goals.

St. Louis 1 2 1 2 - 6

Blast 1 4 1 1 - 7

First quarter: 1. Blast, Artistodemo (Celenza), 0:52; 2. St. Louis, Martinez, 10:03 (RSG). Penalties: Farias, St. Louis (severe unsportsmanlike manner), 5:09. Second quarter: 3. Blast, Kelly (Aristodemo), 3:52 (PPG); 4. St. Louis, Kafedzic, 4:11; 5. Blast, Garcia (Bailey), 5:37; 6. Blast, Garcia (Sagu), 8:11; 7. St. Louis, DiMaria (Farias), 13:43. 8. Blast, Nelson (Kelly), 14:37. Penalties: Martinez, St. Louis (holding), 3:50; DiMaria, St. Louis (severe unsportsmanlike manner), 5:37. Third quarter: 9. Blast, Celenza (Wakefield), 9:12; 10. St. Louis, DiMaria (Farias), 13:37. Penalties: None. Fourth quarter: 11. Blast, Steele, 4:43. 12. St. Louis, Apple (Elfvin), 5:53; 13. St. Louis, Farias (Martinez), 12:03.(SAG). Penalties: Tschantret, Blast (hand-ball), 6:00. Shots on goal: St. Louis 32, Blast 27. Penalty kick conversions: St. Louis. 0 of 0, Blast 0 of 0. Shootout conversions: St. Louis. 0 of 0, Blast 0 of 0. Power-play conversions: St. Louis 0 of 1, Blast 1 of 1. Saves: St. Louis, Elfvin 9, Bollella 1; Blast, Sagu 14. A: 7,856. Officials: Tim Tyrna, Stanford Nagle, Adam Wienckowski, Bob Majewski.

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