If the Utah Blitzz are supposed to crush the Stanislaus Cruisers in Friday's national semifinal, which many think they will, they sure have a lot to overcome.

The Blitzz haven't played in 20 days, and even that was a loss. Their semifinal opponent beat them twice during the regular season — quite a bit when you consider the Blitzz lost just three times. Making matters worse, Stanislaus is on momentum's cloud nine after its stunning upset of Chico in the Western Conference finals last weekend.

So is Blitzz coach Chris Agnello worried?

"In the playoffs, in any sport, it's pretty much open," said Agnello.

When you consider the winner advances to next week's league championship game, fans at BYU's soccer field in Provo should expect a fiercely competitive game. Kickoff is at 8 p.m.

The winner will play either the Greenville Lions or the Boston Bulldogs in the championship game at a site yet to be determined.

For Either Utah or Stanislaus to put themselves in that position, they'll need their superstars to play well. The irony is, Utah leading scorer Fadi Afash played for Stanislaus last year, and might still be there had management handled the situation better.

Thanks to their own superstar, the Cruisers are doing just fine without Afash.

Manuel Brasil, 19, has scored all four goals during Stanislaus' playoff run.

"He's the most explosive player in the league," said Agnello. "He's like Fadi, he can open up a game at any minute."

Brasil doesn't just feast on weaker foes either. He scored a hat trick in a win at Utah earlier this year. That game was on the narrow field at Skyline High. Friday's game will be on BYU's gigantic pitch.

"Brasil will have even more room to work with," said Agnello.

Utah's defense should be more the capable of containing Brasil. Utah surrendered just 22 goals this year, second only two Carolina's 20.

Many of those 22 goals, including Brasil's trifecta, came with sweeper John Cairel on the sideline. With him the Blitzz are a much more difficult team to score on.

Agnello would love to start Cairel, but it's too risky.

"I'd rather not break up the team chemistry that's been there for two months," said Agnello.

While team chemistry is important, so is home-field advantage.

Last year the Blitzz upset Chico to advance to the semis, only to follow that up with an embarrassing loss at Charlotte. Agnello couldn't help but wonder what would've happened had the game been in Utah.

He worked diligently in the offseason to make his team the league's best, and ensure the Blitzz of home-field advantage. Now he just hopes an teenager doesn't steal Utah's thunder.


E-MAIL: jedward@desnews.com