Blast, 4 others in playoff hunt; Milwaukee, Cleveland look secure; 3 other spots open; NPSL notebook


As the NPSL approaches the three-quarter pole, Milwaukee (18-10) is the only team all but certain of a spot in the five-team American Conference playoffs. Cleveland (17-12) is in good shape, and just two games separate five teams for the three remaining slots.

Philadelphia, the Blast, Montreal, Harrisburg and Florida are bunched in between a dozen victories and 16 defeats and it doesn't appear as if anyone is going to make a break, although Philadelphia has the best chance with its newly purchased talent.

A division winner, even if the team has a losing record (a possibility in the East Division), will still get the No. 2 seed in the conference playoffs.

Florida, having sold off all of its best players to the Blast and Kixx seems almost assured of being one of the two teams that won't reach postseason play.

Unlike in baseball, there will be no scoreboard watching in the NPSL over the last five weeks of the season -- access to out-of-town scores is not a strength of the league.

Marinaro scores

Hector Marinaro of Cleveland claimed his first NPSL Player of the Week honor this season (and No. 14 during his career) with a couple of game-winning goals last weekend. Marinaro missed a half-dozen games with a leg injury and has fallen to fifth place in the scoring race with 111 points. Erik Rasmussen of Wichita leads the list with 125 points.

High averages

The name of Carlos Olivas is nowhere to be seen on the league scoring list, but no one is a more effective shooter than the Kansas City Attack forward. On just 14 shots to date, he has tallied 21 points. Best for the Blast in this department are Barry Stitz (39 points on 40 shots) and Danny Santoro, who has scored 25 points on just 26 shots. Doug Neely (42 points on 50 shots) and Tarik Walker (70 points on 84 shots) show up well, too.

Blast today

Opponent: Philadelphia Kixx

Site: The Spectrum, Philadelphia

Time: 10: 35 a.m.

Radio: WJFK (1300 AM)

Outlook: A month ago, the Blast (13-15) probably had no aspirations to win the East Division. Now, the title appears to be there for the taking and the team is playing better than division rivals Philadelphia, Harrisburg and Florida. But the Kixx (13-13) is tough to beat at home (11-2) and has won its last three games. The Blast, 4-9 on the road, has won all three games it's played against Philadelphia, all at home.

Pub Date: 2/25/99

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