CLEVELAND - Lee Tschantret scored two early goals and the defense stayed strong last night in a 13-8 victory over Cleveland that put the Blast one game behind the second-place Force.
"This win sets the tone for what we want to do," said Blast coach Bobby McAvan. "It shows we can win on the road, against our longtime rival and in a building that has not often been kind to us."
The Blast (11-15) improved to 7-6 since McAvan took over Dec. 9. The victory at the Convocation Center at Cleveland State University was the first on the road in five tries under him. The Blast will play seven of its final nine Major Indoor Soccer League games on the road, where it is 3-8.
Goalkeeper Brett Phillips made 15 saves and sparked the clinching goal with an outlet pass, helping the Blast win for the fourth time in five games.
Phillips snared a hard shot by Giuliano Oliviero with 4:14 to play and threw a pass to Tarik Walker to trigger a quick counterattack. That resulted in an easy two-point goal by Giuliano Celenza nine seconds later that made it 13-8.
"I tried to get it out quickly because I saw some space," Phillips said. "Tarik took it down the right wing and Jules finished it nicely."
Tschantret scored twice, P.J. Wakefield had a goal and an assist and Walker two assists in the first half for the Blast, which closed the second quarter on a 7-0 run to take an 11-4 lead into halftime.
"We pressured their defenders early and it resulted in some goals, but we missed a lot of opportunities that would have put this one away much earlier," McAvan said.
Tschantret broke a 4-4 tie by taking a well-paced pass from Wakefield and one-timing a shot past Crunch goalkeeper Jim Larkin at 4:56 of the second quarter.
Craig Scheer made it 9-4 with a three-point goal at 7:03. He took a pass from Walker and shot from well beyond the arc and into the upper corner to the left of Larkin.
The Blast made it 11-4 on a penalty kick goal by Danny Kelly at 10:07.
Kelly was about to tap in a missed shot by Denison Cabral at the goal line when he was tripped by Force defender John Ball, resulting in the free shot from 24 feet.
Force coach Andy Schmetzer replaced Larkin with veteran Otto Orf to start the second half and Cleveland (12-14) responded with a 4-0 run to get into contention, but it lost for the fourth time in five games.
Schmetzer gave its fellow Eastern Conference opponent credit for playing well, but said his team's slump has him mystified. "If I knew [what it was], then we wouldn't be 12-14," he said. "But I've seen a lack of goal scoring all season. We have to make some changes."
Blast 4 7 0 2 - 13
Cleveland 2 2 4 0 - 8