The Philadelphia KiXX is succeeding with a system that's comfortably in place.
It's methodical and comes with an underlying confidence that begins with its goalkeeper, Peter Pappas, and extends through an assortment of interchangeable roles.
Last night, the Blast was no match.
With a chance to build on a positive, gain some ground in the standings and establish a tone for the new year, the Blast instead went backward, falling hard to the KiXX for the fourth time in four tries - this time by a 17-12 count before 4,164 at the Baltimore Arena.
Coming off its first road win of the season - an energized, 22-12 victory in Harrisburg last Saturday - the Blast had a chance to even its record and win consecutive games for the first time since opening the season at 2-0.
Instead, the team is 7-9 with little time to get it right against the KiXX, which once again took over sole possession of first place in the Major Indoor Soccer League with a 12-4 mark. The two teams will meet again at 5:05 p.m. tomorrow in Philadelphia.
"I think our team needs a blood transfusion and a heart transplant because we don't bring it every night," said Blast veteran midfielder Danny Kelly, who was ejected after receiving consecutive five-minute misconduct penalities late in the game. "And we're not going to play consistently until we play like we did in Harrisburg - getting up and down the floor hard, playing for each other. We have to start from scratch, but we can only say the same things over and over again so many times."
The Blast took 46 shots, watching Pappas turn aside 25, with most of the others going wide. Trailing 12-4 at the half and going scoreless in the third quarter, the Blast found a slight opening with Lee Tschantret hitting on a three-pointer and then a two-pointer to cut its deficit to 12-9 with 5:29 left.
But the KiXX got a quick answer from Chris Handsor, who headed home a restart from Omid Namazi just eight seconds later to restore order.
"They got some very good play from Pappas. Tonight we outshot them, had more opportunities and he was the difference," said Blast captain Lance Johnson.
The KiXX got a three-pointer and a two-pointer from Handsor to take a 5-2 lead after one quarter before Denison Cabral brought the Blast to 5-4 with a perfectly placed shot that found the top right corner with 6:31 left in the second quarter.
It had to be perfect.
Anything else simply didn't get by Pappas, who turned aside point-blank chances from Paul Wright, J.J. Kremer and Sean Bowers earlier in the quarter and then stopped Tschantret, Kelly and Bowers again later - 10 saves in the 15 minutes.
"Sunday's another day," said Blast coach Kevin Healey. "We got to do some of the same things of what we did [against the KiX], which sounds crazy, but we controlled the flow of the game. We can't give up weak goals and then we have to put the ball on the frame and finish our chances."
Philadelphia 5 7 0 5 - 17
Blast 2 2 0 8 - 12
First quarter: 1. Philadelphia, Handsor, 3 pt., (Scigliano), 5:33; 2. Blast, Walker, 2 pt., (Cabral), 8:55; 3. Philadelphia, Handsor, 2 pt., (Marinos), 11:07. Penalties: none.
Second quarter: 4. Blast, Cabral, 2 pt., (Kelly), 6:31; 5. Philadelphia, Marinos, 3 pt., 9:32; 6. Philadelphia, Marinos, 2 pt., 13:47; 7. Philadelphia, Morris, 2 pt., 13:59.
Penalties: Philadelphia, Kopp, (five-minute misconduct), 14:56. Third quarter: none. Penalties: Philadelphia, DePalma, (five-minute misconduct), 13:43. Fourth quarter: 8. Blast, Tschantret, 3 pt., 5:47; 9. Blast, Tschantret, 2 pt., (Neely), 9:31; 10. Philadelphia, Handsor, 2 pt., (Namazi), 9:37; 11. Philadelphia, Hesch, 1 pt., 11:43; 12. Philadelphia, Morris, 2 pt., (Namazi), 11:46; 13. Blast, Wright, 3 pt., sh (Cabral). Penalties: Blast, Kelly, (five-minute misconduct), 11:43; Blast, Kelly, (game misconduct), 11:49. Shots on goal: Philadelphia 4-7-4-7-22; Blast 6-13-9-18-46. Power-play opportunities: Philadelphia 0-for-1; Blast 0-for-0. Shootout opportunities: Philadelphia 1-for-2; Blast 0-for-2. Goalkeepers: Philadelphia, Pappas, 30 shots, 25 saves; Blast, Hileman, 15 shots, 8 saves, Wright, 1 shot, 0 saves. A: 4,164.