Revived Blast invokes nostalgia for original team, not Spirit Coaches mesh holdovers, new faces on 'deep' team

October 08, 1998|By Phil Jackman | Phil Jackman,SUN STAFF

Make no mistake, the Blast does not view itself as an extension of the late, lamented Spirit of the National Professional Soccer League. The team made that readily apparent in a glitzy media event staged at the Arena yesterday.

"This is the return of the Blast," the announcer screamed as a giant soccer ball, emblazoned with the names of 11 sponsoring organizations, descended from the ceiling. A dozen cheerleaders squealed with glee, a mascot did what mascots do and spotlighted players trotted out. The music was "Phantom of the Opera" loud.

Owner Edwin F. Hale Sr. noted, "The original Blast did not fold -- we were left without a league when the MISL [Major Indoor Soccer League] went out of business." To him, it's as if the last six years didn't exist and Baltimore is officially making entry into the NPSL.

The team's coach and general manager, Kevin Healey, is a bit more pragmatic. He has to be, since about half his roster consists of holdover players from last season's 12-28 Spirit squad.

"So far, after about a week of practice, we've found the work ethic and the attitude to be great, and now we're seeing the pride coming out in the players," said Healey. "You can see that these guys love the game and really want to play. They're all honest players."

After it was announced that Hale was purchasing and renaming the franchise from Spirit owner Bill Stealey last spring, the coach and his assistant Billy Ronson immediately set about diagramming the entire season, beginning with opening night here Oct. 24 against Harrisburg.

"We've put together an experienced team, a team that's deep, because depth and experience are the things that hold up as the season goes along and you get into those two- and three-game weekends," said Healey.

"I think we're ready," Ronson said. "Our practices have been excellent, and the guys can't wait to get started. We set out a schedule of informal workouts for the summer, and groups of guys got together religiously and did the drills."

Easier said than done. While half the team was finding wins hard to come by in the NPSL last year, most of the others were part-time players for the Baltimore Bays in the United States Indoor Soccer League.

Pub Date: 10/08/98

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