The Milwaukee Wave win the Eastern Conference Championship
MILWAUKEE, Wisconsin (April 28, 2019) - For the first time in three years, the Major Arena Soccer League will have a new champion. The Milwaukee Wave defeated the three-time defending champion Baltimore Blast in today's Eastern Conference Final as they seek their first MASL title and seventh arena soccer title in franchise history.
The Wave were 21-3 in the regular season and had the best record in the conference, earning them the right to host today's game at UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena, where they were 11-1 during the regular season and last week soundly defeated the Kansas City Comets in the opening round of the playoffs.
“You know what, it’s a team that’s been together for three years, and I think that they’re really understanding our system of play and what it takes to win in this league," said Wave head coach Giuliano Oliviero. "This goes back to not just today, but November first. Our first day of preseason. It was all about preparing for this day.
The Baltimore Blast came into this game with the confidence of three MASL championships under the belt and wins last week in a tough environment to secure their spot in this game.
That confidence propelled the Blast to a strong start. Baltimore came out of the gate pressuring the Wave's backline. Vini Dantas and Adriano Dos Santos each had strong shots in the first 60 seconds. Then 1:27 into the match Andrew Hoxie scored the opening goal of the match, putting the visitors up 1-0.
The Wave were not rattled though as they went on the offensive after that. They peppered Baltimore's William Vanzela with 12 shots in the 1st quarter alone. With 3:25 remaining in the opening period, defender Marcio Leite capitalized on the offensive surge and evened the game at 1-1.
The second quarter saw both teams turn conservative. Neither side wanting to concede a score before halftime, most of the play happened in the middle third of the field. Each team was able to muster three shots on goal before the break.
The third quarter saw much of the same, until midway through the period. The Milwaukee Wave began to press more and more. Milwaukee outshot the Blast 6-2 in the period, but neither side could find the back of the net. Both goalkeepers, Vanzela and Milwaukee's Josh Lemos put in playoff-worthy performances and kept the game a low-scoring affair.
Finally five minutes into the 4th quarter, Milwaukee was able to break the stalemate. Bennett beat Baltimore's Dos Santos up the boards on the right side to take a shot from the right side. Vanzela made the initial save, but as he reached to corral the rebound, Bennett stuck his toe in and put the ball into the far side netting.
The goal was confirmed by the officials after review.
Even when the Blast added the sixth attacker, the Wave's defense and Lemos were able to thwart any attacks from Baltimore. In the lowest scoring game of the playoffs so far, the Milwaukee Wave held on and earned their trip to the MASL Championship game.
The Wave and Oliviero will now wait to see who they will face in the title game. They will either host the Monterrey Flash or travel to face the San Diego Sockers, depending on who wins tonight's Western Conference Final at 5:05 p.m. PT.
“Obviously we’d love to play at home, but they are two great teams. There’s a part of us that would love to get a chance to play against the best player in American soccer history, Landon Donovan, but to play in front of our fans would probably be our first choice. We’re going to be ready no matter what happens tonight.”
MASL Match Report
Match: Milwaukee Wave vs Baltimore Blast
Date: April 28, 2019
Venue: UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena
Kickoff: 2:05 p.m. CT / 3:05 p.m. ET