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Blast routed, misses playoffs

The Baltimore Sun

HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. -- The Blast hit rock bottom in its regular-season finale yesterday, and later learned that its postseason chances had expired.

The Blast (15-15) suffered its worst loss of the season - a 21-6 setback to the host Chicago Storm - while Milwaukee beat California, 9-6, to secure the last Major Indoor Soccer League playoff spot. The Blast closed its regular season with six straight losses.

"It was a poor performance, no doubt," Blast coach Danny Kelly said. "We had everything to play for and we didn't get it done. We didn't play good defense, we hung [goalkeeper] Sagu out to dry. It's unacceptable."

The defending MISL champs are eliminated from the playoffs because the best they can do is finish tied with Milwaukee (15-14) for fourth place. The Wave have the edge on the second tiebreaker, point differential in head-to-head games.

Milwaukee and the Blast split their six games this season, but the Wave scored five more points than the Blast in those games.

Until yesterday, the Blast hadn't lost by more than eight points this season. But Chicago, coming off a week of rest, jumped to a 5-0 first-quarter lead.

Kelly sensed his team was still preoccupied with Friday night's last-second, 13-12 home loss to the Philadelphia KiXX.

"Emotionally, we didn't get over last night's game," he said. "But no matter what happened the previous night, the guys have to be accountable. I have to be accountable."

Chicago (16-12) clinched a playoff berth with its sixth straight victory.

The Storm is still in the running for the league championship. It plays today at the first-place Detroit Ignition, and Saturday at home against Milwaukee, which beat the California Cougars, 9-6, yesterday.

"We have bigger goals than just making the playoffs," said Storm coach Steve Morris, whose team clinched its first winning record in the franchise's three seasons. "It's not often you get in this groove you're in. We're going to try and stay in this as long as we can."

The Blast was without several top players yesterday, including forward Lee Tschantret, who was penalized with a red card late in Friday's game.

Chicago scored twice over a two-minute span late in the opening quarter, as defender Randy Soderman broke a scoreless tie with a straight-on three-point goal, his fourth of the season, before midfielder Awadalia Morad struck at the 2:47 mark when he punched in a rebound off the boards.

Chicago defender Chris Brisson extended his team's lead to 7-0 early in the second quarter with an unassisted goal off a rebound.

The Blast got two points back about a minute later when defender P.J. Wakefield took a feed from forward Carlos Garcia and got a shot past Chicago goalie Jim Larkin that deflected in off the post.

But Chicago pulled out to an 11-2 lead with a pair of second-quarter goals just 38 seconds apart. The first came on a point-blank shot from midfielder Mariano Bollella, who then assisted seconds later on midfielder John Ball's successful power play shot.

By halftime, the Storm led 13-2, and it pushed the edge to 15-4 midway through the third quarter.

Chicago extended the margin to 19-4 with three minutes to play before defender Billy Nelson ended a 10-minute scoreless streak with the Blast's final goal.

Blast 0 2 2 2 - 6

Chicago 5 8 4 4 - 21

First quarter: 1. Chicago, Soderman (Ball), 10:24; 2. Chicago, Morad (unassisted), 12:13. Penalties: None. Second quarter: 3. Chicago, Brisson (unassisted), 1:34; 4. Blast, Wakefield (Garcia) 3:23; 5. Chicago, Bollella (Fabinho), 10:46; 6. Chicago, Ball (Bollella), 11:24; 7. Chicago, Valle (Morad), 14:39. Penalty: B, Garcia, 11:24. Third quarter: 8. Chicago, Stewart (Ughy), 8:32; 9. Blast, Millwood (Garcia), 8:55; 10. Chicago, Armstrong (Valle), 11:32. Penalties: B, Chin, 5:32; C, Rosenband, 7:20. Fourth quarter: 11. Blast, Valle (Armstrong), 3:00; 12. Blast, Nelson (Chin), 4:42; 13. Chicago, Ughy (Bollella), 5:19. Penalties: C, Rosenband, 9:43; B, Wakefield, 10:18; C, Larkin, 13:11. Attendance: 2,983.

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