Danny Kelly, recently named by his peers to the Jan. 20 NPSL All-Star Game in Wichita, has a good excuse for not making the American Conference squad last year: "I didn't play indoors. I broke my foot at the end of the outdoor season."
So, not only was the scrappy midfielder a new face when the Blast opened training camp three months ago, he had to re-acclimate himself to the pinball action of the indoor game. He wasn't the only one working to become comfortable in new surroundings.
"We had eight holdovers from last year and a bunch of guys coming from several different places when we started," he recalls. "Everyone wants to win from the get-go, of course, but that's easier said than done. Over the last three weeks, though, we've been playing our best.
"I think we're coming together in all aspects of the game and things are going to get better. Besides winning three games [since mid-December], there were two others we probably should have won. We were the better team; we just couldn't score."
The key, according to the Penn State grad, has been "attitude. We're playing with more emotion, sticking up for each other and moving up and down the floor as a unit. That's important. Offense isn't your only responsibility, particularly indoors."
However, it's going to be tough for the team to maintain the momentum tonight (vs. Philadelphia) and next weekend when it plays three games in three nights, as it's wracked with injuries.
Brad Smith has a knee sufficiently bad to place him on the injury list (15 days or five games), Ronnie Simmons is bothered by a sore hamstring, Todd Hicks (leg) is on the injury list and Doug Neely is hobbled and won't play tonight.
To help fill in the blanks, the Blast has signed ex-Loyola College standout Joe Barger to a 15-day contract.
Around the league
It turns out an 8-year-old was the millionth fan to pass through the turnstiles in Buffalo, so his prize of a lifetime pass to Blizzard games could end up being worth a substantial sum -- 70 years, 20 games a season at $15 per.
The Grinch didn't steal New Year's from the Milwaukee Wave. The league schedule-maker did the team in. The Wave played Edmonton at home Dec. 31, then hustled down to play in Kansas City New Year's night.
For the second time in league history, a son has followed in his father's footsteps in playing for the same franchise. Neal Ryan is playing in Wichita after father Jimmy Ryan performed for the Wings in 1979-82. In 1986-87, Ruben Astigarraga played for the Memphis Storm and, the very next season, son Julio Astigarraga, donned the same jersey.
On the strength of a 4-0 December, which saw him allow just 4.89 points per game, Milwaukee's Victor Nogueira took league Defender of the Month honors. Drawing honorable mention in the voting was the Blast's Troy Snyder, who had 13 blocked shots, a goal and an assist in a half-dozen games.
The next televised (HTS) Blast game will be Jan. 16, when Detroit comes to call.
(NPSL standings, 8D)
Opponent: Philadelphia Kixx
Site: Baltimore Arena
Time: 7: 35 Radio: WJFK (1300 AM)
Outlook: The Blast (5-10) has beaten the Kixx (7-6) twice at home, 13-6 and 12-5, shutting down Philadelphia's All-Star defenders Matt Knowles and Omid Namazi, who set up the offense from outside. Blast defender Jason Dieter is back on the job after suffering a broken rib. Brad Smith (knee) and Todd Hicks (leg) have been placed on the injury list, and the Blast has signed Joe Barger to a 15-day contract.
Pub Date: 1/08/99