Baltimore scored five first-half goals, including three by Dave MacWilliams, and then held off a rally to beat the Cleveland Force, 8-6, tonight to win the Major Indoor Soccer League eastern division playoffs before 11,311 at the Civic Center.
By winning the series, three games to two, Baltimore advanced to the championship round against the San Diego, who have won 16 straight at home. San Diego will the site of the first two games of the best-of-five series Friday and Sunday.
With Baltimore leading, 8-4, with seven minutes to play, Cleveland's Craig Allen was assessed a major five minute penalty. But instead of capitalizing on the man advantage, Baltimore gave up short-handed goals to John Victor and Kai Haaskivi to make it 8-6 with less than two minutes to play.
"I'm afraid I was influenced by the crowd," Coach Ken Cooper of the Blast said. "We should have dropped back and protected our lead, but the crowd was so 'up.' "
Baltimore came out aggressively tonight and took a 1-0 lead at 1:11 on MacWilliams' sixth goal of the playoffs. Heinz Wirtz made it 2-0 three minutes later on a one-touch pass from defender Adrian Brooks.
Cleveland's John Victor scored a minute later, but Joey Fink's 10th postseason goal made it 3-1 at 10:56.