The Blast's quest for a Major Indoor Soccer League playoff berth took a detour last night when the Philadelphia KiXX scored with 40.2 seconds remaining in the game to score a stunning come-from-behind 13-12 victory at the 1st Mariner Arena.
Nothing is official yet, but today's regular-season finale at Chicago has turned into almost a must-win situation for the team that has won three of the past four MISL championships.
It won't be an easy task against the Storm, which is home, has the hottest streak in the league going and is fresh after not playing for a week. In addition, Baltimore, which has lost five in a row, will be without two more veterans: Lee Tschantret, who was red-carded at the end of last night's game, and Robbie Aristodemo, who injured an abdominal muscle and is definitely out.
As often happens in games against Philadelphia, it ended with some controversy. With the KiXX in the sixth-attacker lineup, the Blast (15-14) was clearing the ball out of its end and was cited for a three-line violation.
That gave the KiXX a free kick and Edgar Bartolomeu centered the ball to Sandre Naumoski, who shoved it past Sagu for the winning goal.
"The rule is if the ball lands on the line, it's OK," Blast coach Danny Kelly said. "That ball didn't go three lines."
The Blast had rolled to 6-0 and 8-2 leads.
The biggest mistake came in the third quarter when Genoni Martinez, a Blast nemesis all season, ripped a three-point, left-footed goal past Sagu to pull the KiXX to within 12-11. Martinez accounted for 24 points in six encounters against the Blast.
"That really hurt us," said Kelly. "We didn't get out on him."
With Aristodemo sitting out, Tschantret hurt after an ankle twist, and David Bascome limited to brief shifts, the Blast will field a short-handed team in Chicago while the KiXX (17-12) return home to play Detroit tonight in a battle of two teams already assured of postseason play.
"I was struggling after we were on the power play," said Aristodemo. "Even if we made the playoffs, I don't think I could play. I have surgery coming big time."
"Guys stepped in and did a great job after Lee and Robbie went down," said Kelly. "It just wasn't enough. Now we have to remain focused in Chicago and do whatever it takes."
Philadelphia 0 4 7 2 - 13
Blast 6 2 4 0 - 12
First quarter: 1. Blast, Tschantret (Walker), 3:00; 2. Blast, Lookingland (Watson), 9:28; 3. Blast, Cabral (Garcia), 11:46. Penalties: None. Second quarter: 4. Blast, Garcia (unassisted), 3:48; 5. Philadelphia, D'Ambra (unassisted), 4:17; 6. Philadelphia, Delevski (D'Ambra), 11:25. Penalty: P (too many men), 5:19. Third quarter: 7. Philadelphia, Nusum (Bartolomeu), 2:39; 8. Blast, Cabral (unassisted), 3:38; 9. Blast, Watson (Regis), 4:03; 10. Philadelphia, D'Ambra (Delevski), 8:36.; 11. Philadelphia, Martinez (Donatelli), 3-pt goal, 11:01. Penalties: P, Naumoski, 3:33; B, Walker, 11:55. Fourth quarter: 12. Philadelphia, Naumoski (Bartolomeu), 14:20. Penalties: B, Tschantret, 14:20; B, Garcia, 14:20. Attendance: 8,384.
Matchup -- Blast (15-14) at Chicago Storm (15-12)
Site -- Sears Centre, Hoffman Estates, Ill.
Time -- 2 p.m.
Radio -- WCBM (680 AM)
Series record -- Blast leads 3-2
Outlook -- In its final regular-season game - which may determine whether the team makes the postseason - the Blast encounters the hottest team in the Major Indoor Soccer League. Chicago has won five in a row and also needs a win to fortify its playoff standing. Rookie Stephen Armstrong paces the Storm with 67 points, and Mark Ughy has 57. Armstrong is also tied for the league lead with 11 power-play goals.