Despite first victory, Blast limps into weekend Leg injuries might leave 1-4 team short-handed

NPSL notebook

November 27, 1998|By Phil Jackman | Phil Jackman,SUN STAFF

There was a crowd in the stands at Du Burns Arena the other day watching the Blast prepare for this weekend's games against Cleveland and Florida. Unfortunately, they were team members, walking wounded division.

"Nearly as many players up here as there are down there," said coach Kevin Healey, as he launched into a litany of leg injuries. "This is no time to be short-handed, not with the schedule getting busy."

Worst of the injuries and likely to keep him out of action for the next two games is Brad Smith's ankle. One of the heroes of the team's first win, an impressive 13-6 breeze past the Philadelphia Kixx on Saturday, Smith turned over his foot in the late going after he had scored three goals.

"I had just come back from an injury, too," said the veteran of six NPSL seasons and a half-dozen years outdoors in Germany's first division. "People around here are apt to think I'm a wimp."

There's little chance of this occurring, considering Smith's physical style of play and an athletic background that includes tales of derring-do on the football field as well as soccer pitch. Coming out of high school in Culver City, Calif., he turned down football scholarship offers as a tailback and a kicker from Southern Cal, UCLA, Michigan and Washington, to name a few.

"I hate missing time, because things are coming around now," said Smith, who missed two of the team's first four games. "We're a veteran team, we're working hard and we know things are going to get better. Count on it."

In Cleveland tonight, the Blast (1-4) faces an adversary that has changed little over the years. In other words, if you can keep scoring machines Hector Marinaro and Zoran Karic within reason, no minor feat, the Crunch can be had.

Cleveland is just 3-4, but it has scored 22 more points than any other team in the league, and that's with an injury to Karic, its top setup man. At the same time, goalie Otto Orff has missed a couple of games. The Crunch has been off for 11 days, time for the bumps and bruises to heal.

Tomorrow night at 7: 35 at the Baltimore Arena, the expansion Florida Thundercats come calling. The 'Cats are new kids on the block in name only. They are solid in goal with NPSL veterans Scott Hillerman and Juan De La O and can sting up front with Jean Harbor, Mark Thomas and John Olu Molomo. John Purtteman, Jim Dunn and Gaston Pernia are proven defenders.

The candy man

Move over, Reggie Jackson, you're not the only one with a candy bar named after you. Joining the exclusive club is Marinaro, perennial NPSL scoring leader, MVP and All-Star.

Cleveland-based Malley's Chocolates is producing the bar, and, for $1, you get a $3 discount coupon for Crunch games. "Not many athletes get chosen for something like this, so I'm extremely pleased," Marinaro said.

Et cetera

Besides being unbeaten after five games, Milwaukee has a home winning streak of 18 games. Goalkeeper Victor Nogueira is 37-0 at the Bradley Center since Dec. 21, 1996. Off his four-goal, eight-point outing in Wichita's 21-14 win over Buffalo, midfielder Sterling Westcott is the NPSL Player of the Week. Khalil Azmi's 19-save performance against Philadelphia in last weekend's 13-6 Blast victory was the first time the Kixx failed to hit double figures in points this season. Because David Bascome of Harrisburg hails from Bermuda, all Heat games are shown on TV there on a delayed basis. Wichita's Genoni Martinez holds the long-distance record for three-pointers so far with a 65-foot bomb against Buffalo. Ex-Baltimore Spirit Chris Scotti just signed with Florida.

Blast tonight

Opponent: Cleveland Crunch

Site: Cleveland State University Convocation Center, Cleveland

Time: 7: 35

Radio: WJFK (1300 AM)

Outlook: The Crunch (3-4) is still the high-scoring cast it has always been, and age doesn't appear to be slowing Hector Marinaro and Zoran Karic even a little -- they're 1-2 in the NPSL scoring race. The club does give up a lot of goals, though, having allowed the highest number of points in the league (97). The Blast has several hobbled players, but only forward Brad Smith is apt to miss tonight's game.

Pub Date: 11/27/98

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