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Blitzz hang their hats on defense

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The Utah Blitzz's strength is defense, that's no secret.

"From a coach's point of view it was definitely something we wanted to do," said Utah coach Chris Agnello. "That's the foundation for a successful team, you must prevent people from scoring goals."

The strategy has panned out through the season's first 11 games, and Agnello better hope it continues today when the Blitzz host the Chico Rooks at 7:30 p.m.

Rich Breza, Utah's leading scorer, has a thigh contusion and won't be available. Considering the Blitzz only play with one forward, Agnello is wracking his brain trying to find a worthy substitute.

Agnello is even contemplating starting two forwards, Henry Crompton and David Hernandez, to fill Breza's void. Cristian Cabrera will be making his first start in the midfield, starting in place of the injured Matt West.

"He's not bad. If he can give us a good 45 minutes, that would be good," said Agnello.

Combine Breza's absence with the fact that Chico trails the second-place Blitzz by just one point in the standings, and Agnello is really sweating.

"It's the most important game we've played so far," said Agnello. "If we can go in and get the four points (for the win), then we prevent them from getting any more which holds them down and pushes us up."

After Saturday's game, Utah takes two weeks off from league play before making a two-game swing through California to face Chico and Stanislaus.

Utah will still have an exhibition game next weekend as it hosts Nacional Chivas Tijuana of the Mexican First Division on July 15. The Tijuana team is a farm club of the Guadalajara Chivas, and features a number of players with experience on Mexico's under-23 national team.

E-mail: jedward@desnews.com