The Blast gave player-interim coach Danny Kelly a few gifts last night.
First came the team's aggressive effort in a 6-2 victory over Philadelphia before 5,107 at 1st Mariner Arena. The Blast controlled play at both ends and never trailed while breaking a four-game losing streak.
The second present came after the game when the team spent several minutes signing a ball to give to its new leader after his first victory as a coach. Kelly took over after the suspension of Tim Wittman last week, and the Blast lost in his first game Friday.
"It just feels good to win, period," Kelly said. "We know what we have to do."
The Blast did many things as a team in this game. Giuliano Celenza, Adauto Neto and P.J. Wakefield all had a goal and an assist for the Blast, which got goals from six different players in the victory. Billy Nelson, Wendell Regis and Carlos Garcia also scored.
The victory allowed the Blast (16-11) to clinch at least a third-place finish. In addition, the playoff-bound Blast pulled to within one game of second-place Milwaukee (17-10) as the Wave lost to first-place St. Louis for the second straight day.
The Blast and Wave both have three games left, but Milwaukee gets the tiebreaker if there's a tie at season's end.
This game made Kelly much happier than his debut, a 5-4 loss to California. The Blast practiced what Kelly's been preaching throughout his first week on the job -- playing tough defense.
"It's just a mind-set," Kelly said. "If we get five guys behind the ball on a consistent basis, we'll [be fine]. If we're going to go deep into the playoffs and win a championship, we have to be a solid defensive team."
Kelly also liked how the defense helped create plenty of offense. The Blast caused turnovers or made steals that led to four of its six goals and a number of other chances.
Goalie Sagu also helped with 15 saves. He marked his 100th Major Indoor Soccer League game with several tough stops early before the Blast broke things open and said the team's defense played a big role.
"The defense was helping me a lot today." Sagu said. "They created a lot today. This was a Baltimore Blast game."
The Blast took charge with a three-goal second period that included two goals in 28 seconds. Neto had given the Blast a 1-0 lead with a first-quarter goal on a rebound of a Celenza shot, and the team couldn't finish on a number of breakaways before everything changed in the second period.
Wakefield helped cause a steal deep in the Blast end that he pushed forward to Regis along the left boards. Regis broke free at midfield, raced in alone on Philadelphia goalie Peter Pappas and scored with 10:12 left in the period for a 2-0 lead.
Wakefield then fired a 30-foot shot past Pappas with 7:29 remaining in the half. Garcia made it 4-0 just 28 seconds later. The play began when he helped with another steal deep in the Blast end.
Garcia then sent the ball forward to Jonathan Steele at midfield, who quickly back-heeled it to him along the right boards. Garcia put a high shot past Pappas for a 4-0 lead, and the KiXX never recovered.
"We were in a little slump ... but the goals will come," Celenza said. "You can't ask for anything better than [this game]."
Philadelphia 0 1 0 1 -- 2
Blast 1 3 2 0 -- 6
First quarter: 1. Blast, Neto (Celenza), 4:25. Penalties: None. Second quarter: 2. Blast, Regis (Wakefield), 4:48; 3. Blast, Wakefield (Neto), 7:31; 4. Blast, Garcia (Steele), 7:59. 5. Phil., Boney (Delevski), 12:49. Penalties: None. Third quarter: 6. Blast, Nelson (Millwood), 2:54. 7. Blast, Celenza (Kelly), 14:56 (PPG). Penalties: Pappas, Phil.(tripping), 13:09. Fourth quarter: 8. Phil., Delevski (Andonovski), 5:53 (RSG).. Penalties: None Shots on goal: Phi. 19, Blast 30. Penalty kick conversions: Phi. 0 of 0, Blast 0 of 0. Shootout conversions: Phi. 0 of 0, Blast 0 of 0. Power-play conversions: Phi. 0 of 0, Blast 1 of 1. Saves: Phi., Pappas 12, Morris 1; Blast, Sagu 15. A: 5,107. Officials: Mark Bailey, Adam Wienckowski, Jeff Gontarek, Jason Cullum.