Jeff Prekazi, signed by the Baltimore Blast in early March, scored what turned out to be the game-winning goal as the home team defeated the Cleveland Force, 7-4, tonight to advance to the final round of the Major Indoor Soccer League championships.
This will be the third straight final series for the defending champion Blast, who overcame a four-goal deficit in the second half to win the best-of-five series, 3-2.
Baltimore will play San Diego, which defeated Minnesota, 7-0, tonight to take that series, 3-2. The best-of-seven championship series will begin in San Diego with games Friday and Sunday nights before moving to Baltimore for two games.
Prekazi used a screen to beat goalie Chris Vaccaro from in front of the net with 7:23 left to bring a roar from many of the 9,184 at the Civic Center.
Richard Chinapoo put the Blast ahead, 6-4, with 5:10 left in the final period with a kick into an empty net. Baltimore was short-handed at the time, but Vaccaro got caught out of position -- by 45 feet -- allowing Chinapoo to score. Tim Wittman's shot into an open net with 24 seconds left accounted for the final margin.
The Blast got a bit of luck at the end of the third quarter to stay in contention. Ernie Buriano's shot from the red line hit the post, but then ricocheted off Joey Fink into the net. Andy Chapman had scored his third goal of the game on a spectacular one-on-one move 4:05 into the period to give Cleveland a 4-2 lead.
The Blast opened the scoring at 7:28 of the first quarter on a shot by Bruce Savage.
Cleveland took a 2-1 lead on goals by Chapman and Ali Kazemaini, the latter on a power play. With Ray Kunovac sitting out a two-minute penalty for tripping, the Force worked the ball for one minute before Kazemaini took Tommy Kristiansen's pass and put a 30-footer into the corner of the net. Goaltender Scott Manning remained motionless on the shot.