Blast makes moves at both ends Team signs scorer Kelly, retains goalie Azmi

September 11, 1998|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Blast owner Ed Hale has vowed light shows, excitement and, yes, more wins. And the Blast took significant strides toward that goal yesterday with the signings of starting goalkeeper Khalil Azmi and top-notch scorer Danny Kelly.

"The key ingredient in Baltimore when you have a sports team is you must win and must put together a good team. We feel we've done this," said Hale, who bought the Spirit five months ago and renamed it the Blast. "We feel that the team over last year to this year has improved immeasurably."

Along with the new signings, the Blast announced that about 3,000 tickets remain for its season opener against the Harrisburg Heat at the Baltimore Arena on Oct. 24. It's part of an aggressive attempt by Hale to re-create the electricity the Blast generated from 1989 to 1992 when it was one of the biggest draws in the sport, averaging 8,550 fans.

The Blast also has approximately 1,000 season-ticket holders, 300 more than its indoor predecessor, the Spirit, had last season.

The Spirit floundered at the gate and on the field, finishing 12-28 and missing the playoffs. But the addition of Azmi and Kelly has boosted the talent level as well as the optimism of the Blast, which has 15 players signed.

"They all are trying to generate the same feeling that the Blast once had," Kelly said. "Hopefully, we can have a part in bringing that back."

Azmi, the starting goalkeeper for the 1994 Moroccan World Cup team, was voted the Spirit's defensive Most Valuable Player last season. Kelly, a former National Professional Soccer League All-Star for the Heat, has produced three 100-plus-point seasons and could be the Blast's top scoring threat.

"Today we shored up our goalkeeping, and Kelly is a tremendous offensive player," Blast general manager and coach Kevin Healey said.

Pub Date: 9/11/98

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