Solid Teamwork Sends Ironmen To Scrap Heap
By Staci Wolfson
With three championships in five years, the Blast know a little bit about postseason play, and they used that knowledge to defeat the New Jersey Ironmen in two games to advance to the Major Indoor Soccer League semifinals against the Milwaukee Wave.
Behind the offensive output of forwards Machel Millwood and Adauto Neto, the Blast beat the sixth-seeded team, 22-10, last Thursday at First Mariner Arena and 6-4 Saturday at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.
Forward Machel Millwood recorded eight points in the Blast's 22-10 win over the Ironmen before the teams headed to New Jersey Saturday.
“There are a number of guys in that locker room that can carry us at times, but ultimately, it’s what we do as a unit, what we do as a team, that enables guys to get into the spotlight and do things like that,” coach Danny Kelly said after Millwood scored three goals Thursday. “Millwood, Denison [Cabral], Neto, Lucio [Gonzaga], Giuliano [Celenza], they could all carry us at times, but we have to be committed to each other and sacrifice on the defensive side of things to enable them to do that.”
With the hat trick and two assists Thursday, Millwood accounted for eight of the Blast’s 22 points. The 6-foot-2 former Towson Tiger scored the golden goal that gave the Blast its last title in 2006.
Millwood’s 83 points this season ranked sixth in the league and second on the team behind Cabral.
“I would say right place at the right time,” Millwood said Thursday. “Most of our goals were just team goals; it wasn’t anything spectacular that one guy did. We just tried to get in the right positions that they left open for us, and we were just at the right spot to finish.”
In addition to a goal and an assist Thursday, Neto scored the game-winning goal Saturday with just over two minutes left in the game to break a 4-4 tie.
Despite the blowout Thursday night, the Blast had trouble scoring on the improved New Jersey defense, and neither team scored in the first quarter. The Blast defense held the Ironmen scoreless until the fourth quarter, when New Jersey added two goals within a minute.
“I think everything was against us, the post a couple of times, we should have gotten a couple calls that we didn’t get,” Millwood said Saturday. “It was definitely a playoff atmosphere, a playoff game, bumps, bruises, tackles -- it was just all out. They weren’t going to let us come in here and get a win that easily.”
“It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t our best performance, but we found a way to win,” Kelly said. “That was the important thing. Neto coming up huge for us in the end there, doing what he does, creating something out of nothing and scoring a great goal. …
“Tonight was a big character game for us. Not everything was going our way, we weren’t playing real well, but we found a way to win.”
Neto scored the goal in front of an audience made mostly of Blast fans who traveled to New Jersey to root for their team.
“It was great,” Neto said. “We couldn’t ask for more. They’re great fans, probably the best fans in the league, and they showed it today. They really helped us today.”
Having played New Jersey April 4, Saturday’s win was the third Blast victory over the Ironmen in nine days.
Part of the Blast’s series victory was due to the defense’s success in shutting down New Jersey’s leading scorer, Dan Antoniuk. The team must have similar success against Milwaukee’s Greg Howes, the league’s leading scorer this season with 130 points.
“The guy can shoot, he can beat players one-on-one, he can also thread balls when the double comes into play, but I’m confident with our defenders,” Kelly said. “We’ve done pretty well against him this year with P.J. Wakefield, Billy Nelson, Mike Lookingland, Ryan Pierce, and we can do a good job against him.”
The Blast are now looking ahead to the Wave, one of the league’s original members and one of Baltimore’s biggest rivals. In three regular season matchups this year, the Blast are 2-1 against the Wave with each team undefeated at home.
Baltimore hosted No. 2 Milwaukee Wednesday before heading to U.S. Cellular Arena Sunday.
“Once we get on the field, it’s mano y mano, us against them, and they’re going to do the same thing we’re going to do,” Millwood said. “We know they’re going to come out, kick, grab, scratch, do whatever it takes to win, and now we’re going to go out there and do the same.”
Blast at a Glance
Thursday: Blast 22, N.J. Ironmen 10
Saturday: Blast 6, N.J. Ironmen 4
Stars of the Week
Machel Millwood tallied eight points on three goals and two assists in the Blast’s win Thursday.
Adauto Neto scored the game-winning goal Saturday to break a tie and avoid overtime.
Sagu held the Ironmen to five goals Thursday and only two goals Saturday.
Stat of the Game: Millwood’s hat trick Saturday was his third this year.
The Blast hosted the second-seeded Milwaukee Wave (22-8) Wednesday at First Mariner Arena at 7:05 p.m. They will travel to Milwaukee Sunday for the second game of the series at 3 p.m. If the teams split the series, they will play a sudden death golden goal overtime.
Issue 3.16: April 17, 2008