Neutral site feels like home

Team tries for title against La Raza - in Milwaukee

Pro soccer MISL championship game

April 26, 2008|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,Special to The Sun

Everything seems to have fallen conveniently into place for the Blast during the Major Indoor Soccer League's postseason tournament.

As the third seed, the Blast faced the only playoff team with a losing record in the quarterfinals and dispatched the expansion New Jersey Ironmen in two straight, the second a grind-it-out game on the road.

It encountered a stiffer assignment against Milwaukee in the semifinals but survived a thrilling and rugged game in Wisconsin, 14-13, when the Wave had to play without two of its stars, Marcio Leite (injury) and Troy Dusosky (suspension).

Now, with the ultimate test arriving tonight at Milwaukee's U.S. Cellular Arena, the Blast appears to have caught another break - at least on paper.

Instead of a championship game matchup with the Detroit Ignition, a team the Blast has managed to defeat only once in 10 meetings, it will play a second expansion franchise, fourth-seeded Monterrey La Raza, for the trophy.

And it will do it at a full-size facility rather than the small arena in Monterrey, Mexico, a place Blast defender P.J. Wakefield, a second-team All-MISL choice, labeled "a fish tank."

The Blast has been complimenting La Raza and expressing regret that it won't get a shot at the Ignition, but the bottom line is that Monterrey went 0-4 against Milwaukee this season, losing twice at the championship site, and the Blast has made U.S. Cellular almost a home away from home, going 4-1 there in postseason play.

La Raza advanced by beating Detroit with a golden goal by Byron Alvarez after getting routed, 21-2, in the regular game. Monterrey topped the Blast twice at its cozy arena but lost twice at 1st Mariner.

"It wasn't that much of a shocker," Blast captain Wakefield said of Monterrey's upending of Detroit. "In the playoffs, anybody has a shot. They've got a good team. I think sometimes they're underlooked. I would have actually liked to have played Detroit even though it didn't look good for us. But I don't think it matters what happened in the past."

"They've got a great roster," added forward Denison Cabral, another player on the All-MISL second team. "They've got players who've been to the finals. It doesn't surprise me."

The Blast has thrived with team defense, an outstanding year from All-MISL goalkeeper Sagu, and a balanced offense. Nine players have scored in the playoffs, and the forwards and midfielders have been efficient at helping their defensive mates for the past three months.

"We're playing to lift that trophy, and we have to do everything we've been doing - block, defend with numbers, get down the field and finish our chances," coach Danny Kelly said.

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