Blast looks to recapture momentum Saturday vs. Wave

Is this just another game to run out the regular-season schedule for the Blast, which has already clinched first place in the Major Indoor Soccer League's Eastern Division and the top seed for the playoffs?

Or is it a vital showdown against the team's oldest and fiercest rival to regain momentum after two consecutive defeats, one a lopsided loss to Saturday's opposition, the Milwaukee Wave?


The answer unfolds Saturday night at 1st Mariner Arena when they collide in Baltimore for the first time this season before what could be the Blast's biggest crowd of the season.

It is an interesting matchup, with the Wave striving to fend off the Missouri Comets for the Western Division's regular-season title and the Blast seeking to regain its pride after two subpar performances on the road.


"This game means a lot," said veteran Blast forward Machel Millwood (Towson University). "Every time we play Milwaukee, whether it's in the playoffs or the regular season, it's very meaningful. They're our most intense rival, and they beat us last year in the final. We can't let what happened in Milwaukee [on Feb. 4 — a 22-8 defeat — happen] again because we might see them again in the final."

To Blast coach Danny Kelly, this game offers an opportunity to reverse the recent slide, which has been characterized by too many defensive errors.

"It's a matter of pride," Kelly said. "We haven't really played that well the last two games, giving up an average of 20 points, and we have to be better than that on the defensive side. If you don't fall back, track your runners and play as a unit, a team like MIlwaukee is really going to punish you. We've really got to clamp down on defense."

The two Milwaukee games have underscored the extremes of the Blast's season. A 9-4 win over the Wave on Dec. 31 launched the team on a torrid streak in which they took control of the East. The rematch showed that nothing is guaranteed en route to the crown.

"We just have to have that gut check and make this a statement game," Millwood said. "Once you get in that losing streak, everyone tends to get a little down, and we have to get a good push going into the playoffs. This game could be a starting point for us."

Kelly is particularly mindful that the team with the best regular-season record and statistics is not necessarily charmed entering postseason play (see New York Giants, NFL).

"What it's about is the team playing the best soccer at this point," he said, "and not necessarily the one that's in first place."

Playing at home should be a plus for the Blast, who have been invincible at 1st Mariner since some early stumbles, winning their past seven games there.


"The fans make a big difference," Millwood said.

Said Kelly: "We're a lot more comfortable here.We've proven we can beat anybody. But at the same time, we've proven we can lose to anybody if we don't do the necessary things."

However, this is the Wave. Usually, that's enough to get the Blast's adrenaline flowing.

Milwaukee Wave (16-3) at Blast (14-6)

Time: Saturday, 7:35 p.m.

Site: 1st Mariner Arena



Outlook: These two oldest MISL foes clash for the first time in Baltimore this season after having split two games in Wisconsin. Both lost their most recent games, and the Blast is on a two-game skid. Max Ferdinand has nine points to lead the Blast in the series while veteran Greg Howes and Giuliano Oliviero have each scored seven for the Wave. Goaltenders Nick Vorberg of Milwaukee and Sagu of the Blast rank first and second, respectively, in the league in points-against average.