Blast's Sanaldo makes point

Decision on goalie for championship tough after his 22 saves in Game 1

Pro Soccer

April 30, 2006|By JEFF SEIDEL | JEFF SEIDEL,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Sanaldo forced Danny Kelly into making a tough decision - and the Blast player-interim coach doesn't mind a bit.

Kelly must pick between back-up goalie Sanaldo and normal starter Sagu to start Game 2 of the Major Indoor Soccer League championship series today at 1:05 p.m. in St. Louis. Sanaldo's 22-save effort in Game 1 on Friday played a big part in the Blast scoring a 4-2 victory over the top-seeded Steamers, but he was filling in for Sagu, who pulled a calf muscle while warming up for practice Wednesday.

Sagu said after Friday's game that he was "70 percent." However, Kelly said he didn't mind having to make that kind of choice if Sagu felt ready to go. It will likely be a game-time decision. If the Blast wins Game 2, it wins the MISL title. If St. Louis wins, the teams will go to overtime where the "golden goal" wins the title.

"These are good decisions," Kelly said. "It depends on Sagu's health. These are decisions that you want to have to make."

Sagu had been on a roll in the season's final weeks as the Blast finished in third place with a 17-13 mark. He posted a 15-9 record while Sanaldo's playing time was more limited than expected, and he ended up just 2-4.

Sanaldo hadn't played since April 2, but team officials thought he'd be up to the task. The 28-year old Brazilian gave up a goal 85 seconds into the game and looked shaky in the early minutes but quickly settled down.

He got in sync with a Blast defense that slowed the potent St. Louis offense by blocking 21 shots, stopping the Steamers from getting rebounds and cutting off passing lanes time and again.

"It was not only me, but my team," Sanaldo said. "After the [first goal], I said I have 58 more minutes to play. I felt confident because I know my team is prepared."

Kelly has been preaching the importance of everyone getting back on defense and clogging as much space as possible for opposing offenses.

The Blast did that constantly and must keep it up in St. Louis. The Steamers' field is 20 feet longer than the one at 1st Mariner Arena, and St. Louis tries to use that for an advantage.

This longer field lets the Steamers play to their good speed and ball-handling skills. That length makes it that much tougher to defend St. Louis, and the Steamers have a 15-1 home record this season. The Blast lost all three games there - while beating St. Louis in every matchup in Baltimore.

"We played well," Kelly said. "If we can do this on Sunday and play that good team defense, we'll give ourselves a chance to win."

Blast today

Matchup -- Blast (1-0) @ St. Louis Steamers, (0-1), Game 2 MISL finals

Time -- 1:05

TV/Radio -- ESPN2/680 AM

Outlook -- The Blast can win the MISL title with a win in this game - or by getting the "golden goal" if St. Louis wins. Player-interim coach Danny Kelly has to see if starting goalie Sagu can play after missing Game 1 with a pulled calf muscle or if he wants to stick with backup Sanaldo, who had 22 saves in Friday's 4-2 win. Sagu said that he was "70 percent" after Friday's win. Defense again will be the key. The Blast blocked 21 shots in Game 1 and frustrated the Steamers while stopping them from finishing good chances. St. Louis' field is 20 feet longer than the Blast's, and the Steamers are 15-1 there this season - beating the Blast in all three regular-season meetings. Chile Farias had one assist Friday, and goalie Brett Phillips (13 saves) played well, but the Steamers seemed to struggle after scoring an early goal.

Jeff Seidel

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