Blast's `Wizard' still flows as career ebbs

Former Wichita star faces old team tonight

November 13, 1999|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

In the end, the decision about where Blast forward Erik Rasmussen wanted to spend his farewell season came down to location.

It was not money or even a chance to go out a champion that lured the Rasmussen, 38, out of Wichita. Instead, it was the Inner Harbor and the opportunity to see his brother, who lives in Annapolis, more often that landed the Blast one of the best indoor-soccer players ever.

Rasmussen spent the majority of his career in Wichita before signing with the Blast (4-0), which faces the Wings (3-2) at 7: 30 tonight at the Baltimore Arena.

"I've been in Wichita seven times before this season," Rasmussen said. "This is probably going to be my last season. So I wanted to live in a bigger city in a different area of the country. That was the main reason."

The seven stints in Wichita spanned more than 15 seasons. He was named to the Wings' all-1980s team. His 184 points led Wichita last season, when he posted 10 or more points four times and made first-team All-National Professional Soccer League.

Wichita, which won in Harrisburg on Tuesday, has done well this season despite losing Rasmussen and second-leading scorer Genoni Martinez, now with the Philadelphia KiXX.

Blast coach Kevin Healey said the Wings are using younger players. Rasmussen said the Wings wanted him to back but that it was time to move on.

"It is going to be nice to see some of the guys again," Rasmussen said. "I played with some of them for a couple of years. There are some new guys on the team, as well. It is going to be nice to say hi to all the coaches and the players I know."

Rasmussen came to Wichita from his native Denmark. He plans to return to Denmark after this season to coach.

Coaching would allow Rasmussen to stay connected to the game he cannot imagine being without. He said his body is telling him it is time to stop playing, and that he is no longer able to do some of the things that earned him the nickname "The Wizard."

"I was called the `Magic Man' in Denmark, as well," Ramussen said. "I was quick enough to do a lot of good moves with the ball. I don't have the same speed anymore. I'm not as good as I used to be. I still enjoy playing the game. But, of course, you want to be better than the other guys. I just have to accept that I'm getting older, and I just have to try [to] see what I can do to help out."

He sounds like a guy who is a shadow of his former self. If he is, Rasmussen is still better than most, second on the Blast in points (12) and team leader in assists (six).

His passing looks like it will be the last thing to go. Midfielder Denison Cabral has been the recipient of four of Rasmussen's assists.

Healey said Rasmussen's presence and experience have helped the Blast's early season turnaround, compared to last fall's 0-4 start.

"He works with the players very well, particularly the younger players," Healey said. "He's willing to teach the up-and-coming Blast players some moves he has from his experiences.

"At the games, he's given us a completely different dimension. We come out with so much firepower and different ways to attack people."

Healey said before the season started that having a player such as Rasmussen could put the Blast over the top. Rasmussen had only two practices before the opener because of a soccer commitment in Denmark.

Rasmussen said he did not come here to win a championship but sees an opportunity with the improved Blast, which has to guard against complacency tonight.

The Blast has been impressive in winning its first four games, three against East Division rival Philadelphia.

"We talked about dominating our facility, and this is a home game," Healey said. "Wichita is 3-2 and on top of its division [Midwest]. The season is a collection of games, and we have to focus for every game to get the desired result we want to get. We've had two very good road wins, and we don't want to come home in front of our fans and give one back."

Blast tonight

Opponent: Wichita Wings

Site: Baltimore Arena

Time: 7: 30

Radio: WCBM (680 AM)

Outlook: Wichita lost last season's top two scorers, Erik Rasmussen and Genoni Martinez, as well as Sterling Wescott, who scored 93 points. Still, the Wings are 3-2 and leading the Midwest Division. The Blast is good but has to guard against thinking it can just show up and win. Wichita is coming off a win against Harrisburg.

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