Kixx hold on for MISL title

Posted: April 23, 2007

Kixx player/coach Don D'Ambra warned his team to avoid a second-half letdown.

The Kixx had jumped to an six-point lead by halftime of Saturday's Major Indoor Soccer League championship game against host Detroit.

"We really controlled the first half," D'Ambra said. "I told the team not to get complacent."

Something sparked the Ignition because Detroit rallied. But the Kixx held on for a 13-8 victory and the MISL title, the second in franchise history.

"I don't think it was complacency, but it was power plays," said D'Ambra, whose team lead at the half, 8-2. "They got two and scored on both to make it 10-6. Then they made it 10-8 before I scored the three-pointer."

That goal, with 1 minute, 12 seconds left in the game, clinched it.

"The crowd was really into it, but that [goal] changed the momentum up," he said. "[Detroit's] faces were really winded and disappointed. It let our guys relax a little bit, as it was already late in the fourth. We just wanted to play good team defense the rest of the game."

The championship was the Kixx' first since 2002, and D'Ambra found it particularly satisfying.

"It was a big relief [winning]," he said. "It was really gratifying, and I'm so proud of the team.

"It's been such a tight race all year. So we were an underdog because we went into their building, not because they were ahead of us [in the standings]. We just didn't want to allow them to get momentum."

While D'Ambra had experienced a championship before, many of the Kixx had not.Third-year forward John Barry Nusum was one.

Nusum, who came through huge for the Kixx in the final two rounds, including a game-winner in the semifinal and a goal Saturday, was thrilled about the victory.

"It's a real feeling," he said. "It was like, 'Wow, we really did it.' I felt really good for coach and [Peter] Pappas."

D'Ambra scored two goals - the team's first and last. Pappas, the MISL goaltender of the year, was stellar in net, stopping 14 of 18 shots.

"We played total team defense," D'Ambra said. "We took away their strengths and were very opportunistic. Our guys finished and Detroit didn't. That's what it came down to."

So where does a championship team go from here?

"We have three new teams coming into the league," D'Ambra said, referring to Orlando, Newark, N.J., and Monterrey, Mexico. "So we're going to lose some players to the expansion draft.

"We'll need to find the right pieces of the puzzle . . . Then we'll have to instill a system that works for all the guys."

Nusum isn't too worried about losing players in the expansion draft.

"You never know what will happen," he said. "We may not have the same exact team, but we'll have the same attitude.

"Everyone will be looking to knock us off. I relish it. I love playing under that pressure. I just can't wait until [next season's] opener, with the announcement, 'The defending champion Philadelphia Kixx.' " *

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