Blast refocusing on playoffs

The Baltimore Sun

Now that the Blast has gotten hot and surged into first place in the Major Indoor Soccer League, what does it mean?

Not very much, according to team personnel.

"You don't get any trophies for doing that in the regular season," coach Danny Kelly said. "Finishing first means you're winning and that's good, but our goal is to qualify for the playoffs."

Barring a collapse, postseason play is almost a certainty for the Blast, which is guaranteed no worse than a .500 record since winning eight games in a row. But there are no such guarantees in the "second season," as the team shoots for its fourth MISL championship in five years.

One possible benefit of a regular-season title would be home-field advantage. The playoff format will be set at league meetings next week.

"Anytime you get home field, it's a great thing, especially with the crowds we get here," veteran Lee Tschantret said. "A lot of times the crowd is your extra man. Even for the first round, that would be important."

Then again, there is a pride factor in running through a 30-game schedule and finishing on top.

"The chance to finish first is what you work for," veteran Denison Cabral said. "And, you always have to look for building confidence toward the end of the regular season. Other teams look at you different, like 'they're getting better and that's not good for us.'"

Seeding didn't make a difference last season, when the Blast finished the regular season fourth but went all the way in the playoffs. Because of the balance in the league among the top five teams, it probably won't be very significant this time either.

"Ultimately, we're competitors," president-general manager Kevin Healey said. "We'd like to win the regular season because it'll mean we stayed on a good roll."

Said Tschantret: "What we want is to continue to play well and have good rhythm into the playoffs."

Added Cabral: "We're not overly excited. This weekend we'll do our best to get two more wins and forget about the record. One good thing is we will have off the weekend before the playoffs. We can use it to rest and recover from injuries."

In this arena, the last games are definitely not the least.

Tonight's game

Matchup -- Blast (15-9) at Detroit Ignition (15-10)

Site -- Compuware Sports Arena, Plymouth, Mich.

Time -- 7:35

Radio -- WCBM (680 AM)

Series record -- Detroit leads 4-1

Outlook -- The Ignition, an expansion team, has been the biggest thorn this season for the Blast, which will try to break the franchise record for consecutive road victories with its fifth. Detroit is the only team with a series advantage over the first-place team, which has won eight in a row. Ignition F Jamar Beasley is the MISL's leading scorer with 90 points, and ex-Blast G Sanaldo has a 12-9 record.

Kent Baker

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