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Restart Opportunity

by Steve De Rose
April 29, 2005 - Major Indoor Soccer League 2 (MISL 2)


There has been so much off-field news involving the Major Indoor Soccer League this month, that I must resort to scraping together a quick column to meet a deadline.

In another move which most everyone missed, apparently, another aspect of the playoff game hosting selection involved the Philadelphia KiXX electing to not host a semi-final game.

The KiXX were actually caught by the Cleveland Force for second place. The Force was so hot in this month, they had a chance of finishing in first place if the season's final game result favored them. It did not.

The St. Louis Steamers stagger into the playoffs. They won only two games in April, but they were the games that mattered: versus the Chicago Storm. They were staggered by an injury to GK Brett Phillips. They signed one backup GK, and then saw him be injured. They wound up signing a third backup GK. The team's chemistry turned into vapor.

The Milwaukee Wave might have felt they had an easy route to another regular season championship, but they were sparked into playoff mode by the Force's move. Still, it came down to a Sunday afternoon home game versus a vanquished and injured Baltimore Blast team that they needed to win to finally claim the number one spot.

For the Chicago Storm, it ultimately came down to their final regular season match. They lost by 2-4 to the Steamers in St. Louis. They will point to this game as the one that mattered.

But they had so many opportunities to have made it irrelevant.

A 3-6 home loss to the Monterrey Tigres on December 3. (Monterrey's only victory!)
A 5-6 overtime loss at Milwaukee on December 31.
A 3-4 overtime loss at Milwaukee on February 20.
A 5-6 home loss to the Baltimore BLAST on February 27.
A 5-7 home loss to the Steamers on April 3. (The night of the “Chicago Legends” game, which should have provided a massive morale boost.)
The Storm could not win a road game unless I was in attendance. Unfortunately for them, I ceased going to road games after November 14.

And again, it seems that I overlook the KiXX. In this instance, it is because as I make my playoff predictions, I will reveal the jackpot answer in advance: I still believe the KiXX should win the Championship.

The Milwaukee Wave v. Saint Louis Steamers semi-final is the series with the semblance of regularity. The Steamers host game one later tonight at the Kiel Center. Game #2 will be at the Wisconsin Center Arena on Sunday afternoon. If the teams divide the games, a “golden goal” overtime period will instantly follow.

The Steamers are fortunate to be in the playoffs. Due to the rush of the Cleveland Force, the Wave are awake and prepared for the post season (i.e.: It is not as though they sleepwalked their way through the month and now need to regain their intensity.). The Steamers have a GK who is at less-than-100%, and an offense which, in a match which would have sewn up the playoff spot at Kansas City, the team which allowed the most goals in the League this season, scored twice and lost. Compounded: creaky goalkeeping, not enough offense. The Wave should win this series without the need for the mini-game.

The semi-final series that should be very intriguing is between the Force and the KiXX. Philadelphia's "home" game is in St. Louis later today. The Force will host on late Sunday afternoon. I thought the Force would gel later in the season, but I did not expect them to be this hot. Cleveland is the mirror image of the Steamers. They are peaking at the right time.

But I have seen enough Force matches to notice that they occasionally suffer lapses in concentration. If a team plays the entire sixty minutes versus them, there will be episodes when they can and should score the goals. Cleveland's offense is above average, especially when Genoni Martinez is on the field. Their defense is good enough, and Jim Larkin will make the saves expected of him.

But I think Philadelphia will win the series. Peter Pappas is the best goalkeeper in the League now. The KiXX throw three good lines out on the field. When the Force has its spasmodic episodes, I feel Philly will stick the ball in their net enough times to do the damage.

There are intangibles here: 1) The Force seems to attract chippy and ill-tempered action. If any players were to be red-carded, they would have to sit out the next game. If this occurs on Sunday, it should keep them out of the mini-game, if the games are otherwise split. Or, it will sideline them for the first game of the Finals. This would be advantageous to Milwaukee, who hasn't won a home game in the Finals since 2003.

2) The KiXX have the proverbial "chip on their shoulder". Their fan base is not as large as the other teams in the playoffs. They do not get much media attention outside of southeastern Pennsylvania. They do not involve themselves in outlandish publicity stunts, and they concentrate on indoor soccer. They have not been in the Finals since they won the Championship in 2002. I perceive their "mission", and feel they won't bite on the poisoned lure that the Force will use.

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If I am correct (and that's a big "if"), the Finals will be the Wave versus the KiXX. Both teams will feel they have something to prove. For the Wave, it will be that their losses in the past three years' Finals were undeserved. For the KiXX, it will be that they've had the most stable roster since they won the Championship in 2002, but they've had disappointing series versus mythical teams to which they had no business losing. Here is where I believe the difference is:

The Wave are prone to having their defenders worn down. The KiXX will rotate three solid offensive lines, and Milwaukee will not be able to keep their top defenders on the field to mark all of them. Peter Pappas is a better goalkeeper than Nick Vorberg. When the Wave has to put on the third line defense, the KiXX will score. The Wave is not as good a team at erasing a deficit as they are at defending a lead.

Milwaukke will host the first game of the Finals. If the KiXX get into a run of goals scored in Milwaukee, Wave players may start feeling the nightmare is recurring - the "house of horrors" is back.

And this likely carries over to the following week in St. Louis, where they will encounter not only their own demons, but a prospective audience of Saint Louisians eager to glee in their malady. I think the KiXX win in two games.

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There is some other League news. The San Jose Earthquakes of Major League Soccer announced that Troy Dayak will retire from the Earthquakes at the conclusion of the 2005 MLS campaign to become the head coach of the (Stockton) California Cougars team.

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Major Indoor Soccer League 2 Stories from April 29, 2005


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