The Blast was held scoreless in an opening half for the first time all season in Saturday night's second game of the Major Indoor Soccer League semifinals against the Chicago Soul.
The only goal the Blast allowed in that span was a close-range shot that deflected off defender Stephen DeRoux. Chicago's game plan was clearly to pack players around the penalty area, escape with a low-scoring victory and force a 15-minute mini-game to determine the series winner.
The Blast, however, is a seasoned playoff team and began to break down the Soul defense with sharper passes around the goal. With that adjustment, the Blast erupted for four third-quarter goals in less than three minutes to take control and clinch the series with a 10-7 victory before an announced 5,208 at 1st Mariner Arena.
The Blast will play the winner of Milwaukee and Missouri in the MISL championship round.
"Obviously, we were frustrated and they were sitting back in a zone-shell," Blast coach Danny Kelly said. "To be honest, it was more on us than them. We didn't play very well. Against the zone, we were just not doing a good job and penetrating it. The one thing is we got four quarters of work against it. I knew once we got one [goal], more were going to come. It was a matter of just breaking that barrier."
The Soul had confidence entering the series as one of just two teams to beat the Blast twice during the regular season; the other was Milwaukee. The Blast, however, was the superior team in both playoff games. (They won the series opener, 22-13, on Tuesday.)
Saturday's first quarter remained scoreless until Fred Degand was credited with a 2-point goal with 11.7 seconds left when his close-range shot deflected off DeRoux.
The Soul continued to rely on counterattacks and took a 5-0 lead on a 3-point goal by Pablo Da Silva almost four minutes into the third quarter. The Blast finally responded less than a minute later on a goal by Ptah Myers. Lucas Roque followed with another score to cut the margin to 5-4 with 9:49 left in the third.
Adauto Neto and J.T Noone scored 53 seconds apart, providing an 8-5 lead with eight minutes remaining. Machel Millwood's 2-pointer opened a 10-5 lead with 3:58 left.
"The first couple of quarters was frustrating. They sat back and had a good plan," Neto said. "We got a goal early in the third quarter and I think the momentum changed, the energy changed. The crowd got behind us."
The Blast outshot Chicago 13-4 in the third quarter. Chicago pulled its goalie and pulled to 10-7 on a goal by Degand, but it was too late to make an effective run. "That's how teams have tried to play us the last couple of years in the playoffs — sit back, defend and then try to counter on us," Blast defender Mike Lookingland said. "If you're not disciplined and try to take guys on, then they're gonna pick their spots and get easy goals. I thought we did pretty well tonight."Copyright © 2015, CT Now