'Rocket' Castro brings explosive record to Blast Forward excelled in Europe, Americas

November 23, 1991|By Bill Free B

Introducing Rod "The Rocket" Castro, the Baltimore Blast forward with an ever-present smile and a soccer portfolio that is hard to match.

Castro has played soccer in Santiago, Chile; London; Los Angeles; Bloomington, Ind.; Memphis, Tenn.; San Diego and now Baltimore.

He helped Indiana University win the NCAA soccer championship in 1983, played a major role in helping the Memphis Storm capture the American Indoor Soccer Association title (now NPSL) in 1988 and won two Major Soccer League championship rings with the San Diego Sockers the past two seasons.

He was given the tag "The Rocket" two years ago in San Diego when he scored a goal on the first shot he took for the Sockers.

Now he hopes to pump some life into the Blast (2-4) as it takes on the Cleveland Crunch this afternoon at 1:05 at Richfield Coliseum.

And there's more.

Castro, 26, was only 8 when he witnessed the military coup and assassination of President Salvador Allende Gossens in Santiago in 1973.

Castro, whose home was near Allende's mansion, said he vividly remembers two jets flying over the mansion and firing on the home during the fast takeover.

There are also memories of "little gangs of people favorable to the overthrown Marxist government" shooting in the streets for a few days after the actual coup.

"I was so young and didn't realize the danger," said Castro, who was born in Santiago where his father, a pharmacist, still lives. "It was like watching a movie and it was over so quick. I do remember my grandmother crying because she was afraid one of my uncles would be killed. He was in the Air Force and part of the whole military that was against the government."

Castro lived in Santiago the first six years of his life, before accompanying his mother, Carmen, to London for two years. Carmen Castro received her masters in linguistics at the University of London.

Then it was back to Santiago for two years, arriving one week before the military coup.

After two more years in Santiago, Castro left his homeland for the final time. He went with his mom to Los Angeles, where she studied for a doctorate in linguistics at the UCLA and now is a professor of linguistics at Southern Cal.

Carmen Castro sent Rod to a private school called Brentwood in west Los Angeles on a scholarship that stipulated that he play soccer.

But that league was too weak for him to improve his game, said Castro, and he made his first major mark as a player at the club level in Culver City in west Los Angeles.

The scholarship offers came from UCLA, Stanford, Santa Clara and Indiana University. Castro said he chose Indiana because it had the superior program.

After winning a national championship in his freshman year at Indiana, he captained the team as a senior.

Despite all the above credentials, Castro said he is willing just to fit into the Baltimore picture anywhere coach Kenny Cooper wants.

Just last week, Cooper moved Castro from midfield to the target position behind Domenic Mobilio. Castro replaced Rusty Troy who returned to the midfield.

Castro's job will be to draw some fouls in the penalty box and set up some free kicks for the Blast. He is an expert at "diving" and prompting referees to call fouls.

Castro accused Dallas Sidekicks' standout Tatu of purposely diving to draw penalties and fouls in the season opener that was won by the Sidekicks.

"I guess it takes one to know one," said Castro with a big smile. "I have to work hard to score goals. I'm not a natural scorer like Domenic. But I love to play the game. It's the best job in the world. Even when things are going bad, I know it can't be as bad as doing something I don't love."

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