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Blast gives KiXX the boot


A shot like Danny Kelly's, from just beyond the midfield stripe, had the expected effect on the team that allowed the goal.

It was deflating, so much so that it led to an eventual 25-12 loss for the Philadelphia KiXX against the Blast last night before 4,022 at Baltimore Arena.

The victory gave the Blast a first-round sweep of the KiXX in the best-of-three series and a date with the Cleveland Crunch in the NPSL's Eastern Conference finals this week.

Kelly's shot -- which was set up after KiXX goalkeeper Peter Pappas came out about 7 yards past the yellow line, could not control the ball and ended up tapping it right to him -- had enough steam on it so that the chasing defenders could not catch the bouncing ball, putting the Blast up 5-4 midway through the second quarter.

"They were outplaying us to that point," Kelly said. "We had to get something going. I think that goal gave us a little something to build on. We realized that we had to play in this game; otherwise, we were going to get beat."

The Blast scored seven unanswered points in the second period, took a 9-4 lead at the half and eventually opened up a 15-6 lead at the end of three quarters.

"It was a tough-luck goal for Philly, but a huge goal for us," Blast coach Kevin Healey said. "Danny was in the right spot at the right time. He had a big series for us."

The KiXX came out like a team on the verge of playoff elimination, controlling the ball in its offensive zone for most of the first period.

Having to play without leading scorer Domenic Mobilio, who sprained his ankle in Friday night's match and was declared inactive at game time, Philadelphia got some help from former Baltimore player Kevin Sloan.

Sloan's back-to-back restart goals put the KiXX up 4-2 for the first time in the series at the end of the first quarter. Philadelphia outshot the Blast 14-7.

But without Mobilio, who scored two goals in Friday night's loss to the Blast, the KiXX was unable to sustain that same level of attack in the second quarter.

"After the first quarter, I wasn't happened," Healey said. "I didn't think we played well. The intensity was not great. We weren't getting to the loose balls, we weren't getting to the second balls. I said, 'If we play like that for seven more quarters, we're out.' I credit the guys for turning it around. We put together a solid second quarter."

After Kelly's goal, midfielder Denison Cabral answered a little over two minutes later at 10: 46 of the period, netting his own rebound shot off a KiXX defender.

Midfielder Shane Dougherty finished the scoring in the half deep in the KiXX box off a feed from Tarik Walker, putting the Blast up 9-4.

Walker scored his first of two goals at 1: 29 in the third quarter, giving the Blast an 11-4 lead. The KiXX cut it to five midway through the period, but the Blast scored six of the next seven goals and led 15-6 heading into the final quarter.

Dougherty, Walker, Cabral and Barry Stitz each had two goals for the Blast.

"Once you get on a team that is already down a game, they are going to start cheating and the game is going to open up, which is exactly what happened," Dougherty said. "We started getting a lot of counter-attack goals. It was just important for us to put a couple in the net early so the game would open up."

The 25 points by the Blast were the most points it has scored since compiling 34 on Feb. 24.

"It felt good to have a nice, comfortable lead in the fourth quarter," Healey said. "Philadelphia had to take some chances. We just made them pay a little bit on the defensive end."

Cleveland coach Bruce Miller got an up-close view of the match. Miller's team swept its three-game series with Montreal on Friday night, and he scouted the game.

The teams will play the opening game of the best-of-three series Friday night in Baltimore, before playing Game 2 in Cleveland on Saturday and Game 3, if necessary, in Cleveland.

Cleveland is one of the few teams the Blast had trouble with this season, losing four of five games. After struggling early in the season, the defending National Professional Soccer League champion Crunch has returned to form, using a late-season surge to overtake the Blast for the top spot in the Eastern Conference.

Philadelphia 4 0 2 6 -- 12

Blast 2 7 6 10 -- 25

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