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Blast's play is at odds with playoff berth


If Las Vegas were setting odds on the Blast's making the playoffs, it probably would be taking a long, hard look at revising them. The oddsmakers would be asking themselves three questions:

* Does the Blast have any luck at crunch time?

* Will the Blast be haunted by former goalkeeper Scott Manning?

* Does the Blast have a consistent "go-to" guy?

The answers, after the Blast's back-to-back road losses at St. Louis and Wichita last weekend, appear to be no, maybe and no.

Baltimore was in position to make a stand in St. Louis, where the Storm is struggling to get out of last place, and in Wichita, where the Wings had lost five straight before Sunday's double-overtime victory.

Now, instead of being solidly in third with a 15-13 record, the Blast is 13-15 and in fifth. If this seems better than seventh, it isn't.

In the Major Soccer League, there are seven teams, and four of them go to the playoffs. There are five teams within 2 1/2 games of each other, battling for three of the four spots. San Diego (20-7) just about has assured itself of the top seed. The Sockers' magic number to clinch a playoff spot is six, and their magic number to clinch the regular-season championship is seven.

The Blast has 12 games to make the playoffs.

While one-goal games have turned to the Blast's advantage (6-5) -- the club was 8-20 in such games last season -- the team constantly flirts with disaster in must-win situations.

Tomorrow, it will face the Wings and Manning again.

The former Blast goalkeeper always has played big in big games. Sunday, when the Wings battled back to take the Blast to double overtime, Manning got bigger and luckier as the pressure mounted.

Now, he's coming to the Arena to play for a team other than the Blast for the first time in 10 years. Does anyone think he's not inspired?

Will the Blast have a go-to guy Thursday when it matters? The oddsmakers are watching and doubting.


Offensive wonder: Wichita's Chico Borja, who broke the Blast's heart Sunday when he scored the double-overtime game-winner, the MSL's Offensive Player of the Week. Borja had four goals and seven assists in three games last week. For the season, he has 22 goals, 37 assists for 59 points in 24 games.


Otto, Otto, Otto: That's what they're going to start chanting in Cleveland if backup goalkeeper Otto Orf keeps doing what he's been doing. Orf, in the process of ousting P.J. Johns as the starter, earned MSL Defensive Player of the Week honors by leading the Crunch to three straight victories. Orf, 4-13 in each of the past two seasons, is hot. He made 37 saves on 82 shots last week, allowing 14 goals for a 4.67 goals-against average. He is 5-2 this season with a 4.98 GAA.


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