Blast hopes it can dial up same tune at home

Pro Soccer

January 06, 2007|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,Sun reporter

The 1st Mariner Arena isn't Wrigley Field, but it certainly has been the friendly confines for the Blast this season.

When the team plays at home tonight for the first time in nearly a month, it will be seeking to protect an unblemished (4-0) record here that has served as a counterpoint to the opposite results on the road.

The disparity has the Blast (4-5) floating in the middle of the Major Indoor Soccer League standings, so protecting its turf is essential until there is a turnaround in games elsewhere.

With the Detroit Ignition coming to town for the second time this season for a 7:35 p.m. matchup, no one is quite sure why the home/road outcomes have been so contrasting, but the belief is that intensity and dedication will resolve the situation. Only a third of the schedule will have been completed after this game, so it is no time to panic.

Overall, the Blast has dropped 10 straight regular-season road games and some improvement is necessary if the team is to return to the playoffs and defend its league title.

"We've got to grind through it and get a little confidence," president-general manager Kevin Healey said of the woes at opposing arenas. "Sometimes, it becomes a bit of a mental thing. We'll get with it, but it will take hard work. At home, things are just the opposite. We have to be ready to focus on results and not think we can just go out there and win. We've got a little payback with Detroit, which really handed it to us the last time."

The most recent game illustrated the Blast's problems elsewhere. The team took a 17-10 cushion into the fourth quarter in Chicago, but was outscored 11-2 down the stretch to suffer its fifth road defeat.

"We played three quarters of good soccer and took them out of their comfort zone," Blast coach Danny Kelly said. "In the fourth quarter, we had mistakes you just can't make. They need to be corrected and we need to put together 60 minutes, doing all the little things and staying positive."

Veteran Lee Tschantret, who missed the Chicago game with the flu, said the team has played well in several road games, but has "kind of learned the hard way you have to play all 60 minutes. We haven't finished and it always seems to be one quarter hurting us. And we've been unlucky a few times."

Except for a 15-4 rout in Detroit, all the road games could have gone either way.

The team's rash of injuries to key players obviously is a factor, although Kelly said, "I have a lot of confidence in the guys we do have. I think we can win with them. With or without the injured players, we need to do a better job of playing hard defense and finishing our chances. I expect a lot from our young guys. You can't count the days until the injured come back."

Tough travel may have been an influence in the debacle in Detroit, the game coming two days after the Blast had played in California, but Kelly said everyone else in the league has similar scheduling.

"Personally, I enjoy playing on the road; something about that you-against-the world mentality is appealing," said Tschantret, who has been doing it since 1990-91. "It's 16 guys battling everybody else. But you have to outwork the other team, especially now since there is so much parity in the league. It's not a big deal. We're taking some lumps now, but we'll hit a stretch when we'll win on the road."

Still, it's always good to return to the comfort zone in Baltimore.

"We love playing in front of our fans," Kelly said. "They always give us an extra lift. And we need them to get behind us tonight."

kent.baker@baltsun.com

Blast tonight

Matchup -- Detroit Ignition (6-6) at Blast (4-5)

Site -- 1st Mariner Arena

Time -- 7:35

Radio -- WCBM (680 AM)

Season series -- Detroit leads 2-1

Outlook -- The Blast strives to protect its unbeaten record at home against an opponent that handed the team its worst loss in three seasons in their last meeting, 15-4. Jamar Beasley leads the Ignition and the Major Indoor Soccer League with 52 points after last night's 24-14 win over Chicago; Denison Cabral's 23 points top the Blast. None of the Blast's injured players - Guiliano Celenza, P.J. Wakefield, Adauto Neto and Cristian Neagu - is expected to play, and David Bascome is out for the regular season.

Kent Baker

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