With a long list of wounded, Blast makes most of respite

Team gets healing time, though practicing is tough

NPSL notebook

Soccer

January 05, 2000|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

It's been as much of a lull in the schedule as the Blast will see this season, having eight days between games, and it comes at an opportune time.

For the first time this season, the Blast is having to deal with a rash of injuries, though none appears to be to serious.

The list, however, is long and it keeps the team from doing too much in practice. Defender Doug Neely's muscle pull in his lower back appears to be the most serious. The others hurting -- Ronnie Simmons (knee), Mark Thomas (shoulder), Jason Dieter (toe), Barry Stitz (foot) and Derrick Marcano (knee) -- could possibly return for Saturday's home game against Detroit.

Blast coach Kevin Healey said he'll take these relatively minor injuries over the major injuries that hit some of his key players last season, including Lance Johnson, who missed two months after breaking his right fibula.

"The injuries affect your practices because you can't do as many full-court scrimmage activities," Healey said.

"But you just have to deal with it. It certainly is better than last year when we had all the broken bones. It's just part of the NPSL. Everybody hits these stretches during the season."

Healey is going relatively light with those who can work out, wanting to keep the players fresh before a hectic schedule in the middle of this month.

The Blast, which has played more games than any other team in the league -- three more than East Division rivals Philadelphia and Harrisburg -- will play five games in eight days starting at home against St. Louis on Jan. 15.

So Healey is taking advantage of having more than a week to prepare for the Blast's first meeting of the season with the Rockers (6-11), who are in last place in the North Division.

"We have one game this week, at home, so we can prepare for that one team," Healey said. "I talked with some teams that have played Detroit. I'm getting a tape in to take a look at them and some of the things we do."

They're believers

After winning five in a row, the Blast looks in good shape to at least extend that streak to seven, facing last-place teams at home in its next two games.

But confidence, more than scheduling, may be the biggest asset for the Blast after opening up a 1 1/2-game lead over Philadelphia in the division.

"It's nice to have the record we have and play the way we've been playing," midfielder Denison Cabral said.

"The confidence is pretty important now between teammates because when we come into tight situations, we know we can play anybody and win."

The Blast opened the season on a four-game winning streak before topping that with a win last Thursday over Montreal.

"We just want to keep riding that winning streak," Healey said. "Our job is to keep the good times coming, so when you have a little bit of downturn you hope that you don't, but if you do, you have enough wins to counteract it."

New All-Star format

Coaches in the league will soon be voting on the players and coaches for the NPSL All-Star Game set for Feb. 1 at Skyreach Center in Edmonton.

The game will have a new format this year, with Team Canada facing Team USA. Team Canada will have players from Edmonton and Montreal, both in first place in their divisions, and any Canadian-born NPSL players, such as Philadelphia forward Domenic Mobilio.

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