Rest rates bit higher than finishing second

Blast notebook

Pro Soccer

April 08, 2006|By JEFF SEIDEL | JEFF SEIDEL,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

The Blast needs to win tonight's regular-season finale in Philadelphia to keep its hopes alive for second place in the Major Indoor Soccer League. However, club officials are a little more concerned about the late-season injuries that have hit the team and having everyone ready when the playoffs begin in about two weeks.

That's why player-interim coach Danny Kelly and general manager Kevin Healey agreed that resting those players tonight will be best in the long run. To finish second, the Blast (17-12) needs to beat Philadelphia (9-19) and for Milwaukee (17-12) to lose tomorrow in California.

Milwaukee would get the No. 2 spot if the teams finish in a tie, thanks to a better head-to-head record (4-2) against the Blast.

"We have a lot of people that have minor injuries, and they're going to sit out to make sure that they're prepared for the playoffs," Healey said. "They're not major injuries. We're going to try to win the ballgame, but we're going to be smart about what we're doing."

Hamstring problems will keep Kelly out for a second straight game. Machel Millwood (toe injury) and Jonny Steele (ankle) will also be held out. Wendell Regis (groin) may try to play, as might Rich Daughtridge (neck).

"It's just a situation where we're just going to try and be smart," Kelly said. "We're going to play hard. We're going out there to win. But we also have to be a little cautious."

Setting the clock

Dates and times for the Blast-Milwaukee playoff series remain unsettled. They depend on how the teams finish.

All that's certain is that the Blast will host a game on April 22 at 7:35 p.m. If the Blast finishes second, then Game 1 will be in Milwaukee on April 21 at 7:05 or 7:35 p.m.

But if Milwaukee ends up second, the Blast would host Game 1 on April 22 at 7:35. However, the Wave wants to host Game 2 the following afternoon. Milwaukee had talked about playing at its regular 1 p.m. (CST) Sunday starting time. If the teams split the two games, sudden-death overtime at the end of Game 2 would settle the series.

MISL officials and the teams are talking about how difficult the travel for both would be from Baltimore after a late game the night before. Wave officials said the game could be pushed forward to 3 or 4 p.m.

Details will be finalized on Monday. Top seed St. Louis and fourth-place Chicago will meet in the other first-round series.

Defense, defense

Kelly has been emphasizing tougher defense since taking over as interim coach. The Blast has been listening and been stingier in Kelly's four games in charge.

The players have done a much better job at not being caught out of position and giving up breakaways, making life easier for goalies Sagu and Sanaldo. Kelly rested Sagu in last Sunday's 4-3 overtime loss in Chicago, but Sanaldo made 18 saves to keep the Blast in the game.

Sagu will start against the KiXX tonight.

"We want to make sure that we're all playing well defensively," said defender Billy Nelson. "It's not just the defenders playing well. We just think that if we play well collectively together as a team defense that it's going to be tough to beat us."

Blast tonight

Matchup -- Blast (17-12) @ Philadelphia (9-19)

Time -- 7:05

Radio -- 680 AM

Outlook -- This is the Blast's regular-season finale. It needs to beat the KiXX and for Milwaukee (17-12) to lose tomorrow in California to finish second. If that doesn't happen, then the Blast will get the No. 3 seed. Either way, the Blast and the Wave will meet in the first round of the playoffs starting April 21 or 22. Injuries have nicked the Blast recently, and player-interim coach Danny Kelly (hamstring), Jonny Steele (ankle) and Machel Millwood (toe) will sit out, along with possibly one or two others. Carlos Garcia has been coming on offensively, and the Blast will need more from him, along with Adauto Neto and Giuliano Celenza. The big question is how well Philadelphia will play, because this game has no meaning for the KiXX - except for players bidding for jobs for next season.

Jeff Seidel

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.