The recent playoff history of the Blast has been one of feast or famine. In the past six years, it has either failed to qualify for postseason play or marched all the way to the championship.
And the road to the titles always seems to wind through Milwaukee, the site of the Blast's semifinal victory via Machel Millwood's golden goal in 2006 and championship wins in both 2003 and 2004.
So, the signs appear favorable when the Blast takes on the Wave today at 3 p.m. with another opportunity to advance to the final against either the Detroit Ignition or Monterrey La Raza.
Milwaukee is a hurting team after losing to the Blast in a rough-and-tumble opener at 1st Mariner Arena last Wednesday and will be without both Dusosky brothers - Todd is out with an ankle injury, and Troy is suspended for the regular game after throwing a punch at Blast goalie Sagu Wednesday - and probably without budding young star Marcio Leite, who suffered a sprained ankle in the game.
The Wave will have to depend heavily on Most Valuable Player candidate Greg Howes, whose 130 points lead the league. Howes, likely to draw plenty of attention from the Blast's No. 1 defense, played well in the loss at Baltimore with two goals and one assist and is dangerous from anywhere in the offensive zone.
Because Milwaukee also has a home-field advantage, Blast coach Danny Kelly is hardly considering the game a cinch.
"I don't think the game is going to be any easier," said Kelly. "This is wholly separate, and they've got a lot of talent. I don't think that all of a sudden they're any less of a team if they're missing Marcio."
"We can't be cruising around expecting that everything is going to be OK," added Denison Cabral, who erupted for 11 points in the opener with a three-point goal, two shootout goals, a penalty kick score and two assists. "I believe they have a good roster, and we're not even going to think about [the Waves' problems]. They're at home, they've got the fans, and we're not going to change the way we play."
The oddity in the playoff landscape is that the Blast will have to return to Milwaukee next Saturday for the title game if they win.
Milwaukee was the only city submitting a bid to host the final, an arrangement mandated by the MISL to accommodate the Fox Soccer Channel's coverage and subject to availability of the facility. If the Blast wins, it means two visiting teams will play in the host city.