The New Jersey Ironmen tried a different defensive strategy last night in the quarterfinals of the Major Indoor Soccer League playoffs, but it didn't take long for the Blast to unravel it.
Dazed early in the game by a conservative New Jersey zone, the Blast knocked the opposition right out of the defense by scoring 12 consecutive points and rolled to a 22-10 victory before an announced 3,867 at 1st Mariner Arena.
To stay alive, the Ironmen must win the second game tomorrow night in Newark, N.J.
"It was very frustrating," Blast forward Machel Millwood said of New Jersey's early defensive strategy. "We haven't seen that yet. Coach [Danny] Kelly let us know they were in a zone, so we started overloading one side. We knew with a couple of good looks that sooner or later they were going to have to come out of it."
After the Ironmen scored twice with what Blast goaltender Sagu described as "typical indoor goals" - carom shots off the boards - the Blast's offensive capabilities began to dominate. Millwood scored his first goal, and then Aduato Neto adroitly dribbled around three defenders and scored with a bit of individual brilliance to give the Blast a 10-6 lead at halftime.
Then, the Blast controlled play in the second half until the waning minutes, when the game was in hand.
"This was what we wanted - get that win at home," said Kelly, who was generally satisfied with his team's defense after some early foibles. "They scored on a couple of balls off the boards, but we tightened up after that and closed down their chances."'
The Blast finished with a 27-15 advantage in shots on goal and beat the expansion Ironmen for the fourth time in five meetings this season. New Jersey's only victory in the series was Jan. 11 at home, 13-12, on a last-minute goal.
"I don't think they'll play a zone in the game up there," Sagu said. "They lose it and they're done."
Millwood scored 13 points in the regular season against New Jersey, and he added two assists to his three goals for eight points last night. Captain P.J. Wakefield had a three-point goal and a two-pointer.
"This was the first step, and we're past it," Wakefield said. "We're not there yet."
New Jersey 2 4 0 4 - 10
Blast 6 4 2 10 - 22
First quarter: 1. New Jersey, Gray (Stamenkovic), 1:57; 2. Blast, Celenza (Gonzaga) (3-pt. goal), 7:37; 3. Blast, Wakefield (Neto) (3-pt. goal), 13:34. Penalties: NJ, Gray, 12:46; B, Garcia, 14:30. Second quarter: 4. New Jersey, Tiguinho (Moojen), 3:24; 5. New Jersey, O'Neill (Stamenkovic), 7:06; 6. Blast, Millwood (Celenza) 7:21; 7. Blast, Neto (unassisted), 10:51. Penalties: None. Third quarter: 8. Blast, Lookingland (Millwood), 11:25. Penalties: None. Fourth quarter: 9. Blast, Cabral (Aristodemo), 2:06; 10. Blast, Millwood (Cabral), 7:18; 11. Blast, Wakefield (Millwood), 8:47; 12. New Jersey, Kljestan (unassisted), 10:17; 13. Blast, Gonzaga (unassisted), 11:36; 14. Blast, Millwood (Cabral), 13:40; 15. New Jersey, O'Neill (unassisted), 14:24. Penalties: NJ, Namazi, 11:45. A: 3,867.