Playoff future uncertain for Blast

Team can clinch spot with wins in next two

March 30, 2007|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,Sun Reporter

Will there be a tomorrow for the Blast after this weekend?

That is the question after a four-game slide has placed the team in playoff jeopardy heading into the final two regular-season matches - at 1st Mariner Arena tonight against the Philadelphia KiXX and tomorrow afternoon in Chicago against the Storm.

All kinds of possibilities still exist involving four teams vying for three postseason berths alongside the Detroit Ignition, which has already qualified. But the bottom line can be borrowed from Al Davis: Just win, baby, and don't worry about it.

"I guess we're where we deserve to be. We had a great streak [eight straight wins] but the last four we've gotten away from what made us successful," coach Danny Kelly said. "We need to do it this weekend and we're in a position to control our own destiny."

Said midfielder Robbie Aristodemo: "We're in a bit of a mess, but if you had asked me if I would have taken 15-13 with all the injuries we've had, I would have. Last year we were 17-13 with a full squad and we can finish with the same record."

The Blast's major advantage is a one-game lead on the fifth-place Milwaukee Wave. If it wins both its remaining games, it's in. If Milwaukee loses twice, it's in. A combination of a Blast victory and a Milwaukee loss would do it, too.

It is unlikely that Chicago will drop three straight - another way for the Blast to make the field - because the Storm is the hottest team in the league, riding a five-game winning streak.

There is even a chance that the Blast will have to wait a week to learn its fate because Milwaukee and Chicago will face off in the MISL's final regular-season game April 7. A four-way tie is a remote possibility, and head-to-head competition - followed by goal differential among all four teams - would be used to decide the participants.

"If we win, no problem, but that's easier said than done," Aristodemo said. "It's going to take 17-18 guys giving nothing less than 110 percent and running through walls."

Said Kelly: "We let ourselves down in that Chicago game last week [in which a win would have clinched a berth]. But we can't get it back. So, it boils down to who wants it more now."

Owner Ed Hale said: "I'll take my chances with the character these guys have. We have a shot at it because Kevin [Healey, president-general manager] and Danny have done a good job of keeping everything together."

The Blast has won three of the past four league championships.

Player-coach David Bascome, meanwhile, might get back on the field this weekend, less than four months after tearing an anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.

"We're not expecting David to carry us," Healey said. "Just whatever he can do with a few shifts. He's got the fitness issue to work through."

Said Aristodemo: "Seeing him back would definitely be a boost. He plays with a lot of passion. To see him come back in less than four months from an ACL would be amazing, give us a big lift."

kent.baker@baltsun.com

Tonight's game

Matchup -- Philadelphia KiXX (16-12) at Blast (15-13)

Site -- 1st Mariner Arena

Time -- 7:35

Radio -- 680 AM

Season series -- Blast leads 3-2

Outlook -- Two teams battling for playoff position meet for the final time this season in a down-to-the wire scenario. The KiXX can clinch the second spot (first-place Detroit is already in) while the Blast is still battling to finish above the Chicago Storm and Milwaukee Wave. The Blast has won both games with the KiXX on its home field, but is in the throes of a four-game losing streak. Machel Millwood leads the Blast with 63 points and Denison Cabral has 61, but neither scored in Saturday's 14-7 loss at Philadelphia.

KENT BAKER

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