Blast get one last chance to earn playoff bye

Win against Comets in season finale would secure home-field for MISL title game March 25

March 12, 2011|By Kent Baker, Special to The Baltimore Sun

With a chance to win the Major Indoor Soccer League's top playoff seeding, and thus the right to bypass the first round and host the championship game March 25, the Blast's assignment Sunday is simple: beat the Missouri Comets at 1st Mariner Arena.

It could have been even simpler. A victory at home against the last-place Chicago Riot on March 4 or on the road against the Blast's chief contender, the Milwaukee Wave, last Sunday would have finished the task. But neither happened, and now the Blast faces an almost-certain must-win situation.

"We weren't happy with those performances," coach Danny Kelly said. "Friday we could have won, but we gave up some bad goals. Sunday we got away from what made us successful. We didn't do the little things, and they added up to a loss. We can only move forward. We want that championship game at home, but it's about stepping on the field and doing it."

Added general manager Kevin Healey: "We've still won eight of 10 overall. We just had a bad weekend. Now, we need to reward ourselves for what we've worked hard all year for."

Although the Blast is 3-0 against the Comets, it won't be easy. Missouri has the leading MISL goal-scorer(Byron Alvarez), a former league Most Valuable Player (Jamar Beasley), a newly acquired veteran (Anthony Maher) and an accomplished goalkeeper (Danny Waltman).

The Blast could still gain the No. 1 seed even if it lost, provided the Omaha Vipers beat the Wave in Milwaukee. That is an extreme long shot, however. When they met last weekend, the Wave routed the Vipers.

"We don't anticipate Milwaukee losing to Omaha," Blast captain Robbie Aristodemo said. "Omaha is a little bit down in the dumps. Our main focus is on winning our own game. We're still in good position to finish with a win at home [where the Blast is 7-2 this season]."

Missouri is also in the playoff hunt with a one-game lead on Omaha for the third and final spot. Either a Comets win or a Vipers loss will put Missouri into the opening round against either the Blast or Wave.

"They're going to be up for this game, too," Kelly said. "It's going to take a great effort to beat" the Comets.

Added Aristodemo: "They'll be a handful. Like any expansion team, they started slowly but came on strong toward the end. They've got two quality lines and a lot of MISL veterans. But if we beat them, we know it's going to be exciting here with a lot of fans for the championship. That would be great for the league."

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