Denison Cabral, estimates his coach Kevin Healey, gets up higher on his back-flips than any other player in the league.
"Other people do them but not like Denny's," said Healey, whose Blast (12-7) face St. Louis (6-11) at 7: 30 tonight in a National Professional Soccer League game at Baltimore Arena. "Especially after big goals. It looks like he is flying. He is in orbit when he does it."
The flips send the kids whomake up a good percentage of the arena into a frenzy.
Cabral, at 5 feet 4, is a fan favorite because of his success against defenders, most of whom are at least a half a foot taller and 30 pounds heavier. That is one reason kids yell his name more than anyone else's during the Blast's postgame autograph session.
"I was in the mall, and some people came up to me and said, `Hey, aren't you the guy [who] does the flip?' That is something people are going to recognize me for -- for being crazy and acting like a little boy on the field.
"Everybody looks forward to scoring goals. When you do it, you have to celebrate somehow. If you can involve the fans, then it is more exciting. The reason why I flip is for the fans."
Cabral's father, who has not seen him play since he left home in Florianopolis, Brazil, will get a chance to see his son turn back-flips in two weeks, when he visits the United States for the first time.
He'll be arriving just in time to see his son playing what could be the best soccer of his three-season NPSL career.
Cabral was named to his first All-Star team earlier this week and will play for Team USA in the Feb. 1 game in Edmonton.
He has been the Blast's most consistent scorer this season, the team leader with 65 points, tied for fifth in the league. He registered 110 points last season, his third on the Blast.
Six days before his inaugural All-Star appearance, Cabral will celebrate his 26th birthday, prompting his dad's Baltimore trip.
"That is my gift for me, bringing him here," Cabral said. "I can tell that I'm going to have to explain to him about the games and the rules."
Excuse Cabral's father if he is caught off guard by the indoor game, which doesn't exist in the same form in Brazil. That was his son's reaction when he first watched an indoor soccer game on television in 1994, shortly after moving to America.
Cabral moved originally to Florida from Brazil to play outdoor soccer, something his agent told him to do after participating in an Adidas soccer camp.
"I was watching the All-Star Game for indoor on TV, and I thought it was one of those American shows like wrestling, with all kind of fake things," Cabral said. "I said, `This is not real soccer.' Then somebody said to me that they have a professional league in this.
"The first time I played in it was a two-day tryout with the Washington Warthogs. I loved it. I loved it, because the game was so fast."
After four seasons with the Warthogs, Cabral went on to play for the I-League Baltimore Bays, which Healey coached and Blast assistant Billy Ronson played for.
Healey liked Cabral's game, though he said Cabral was not particularly good at playing defense, something the forwards are responsible for in indoor soccer. Healey said he always knew Cabral could score.
"To become a more complete player, he needed to work on his defense," Healey said. "Knowing when to stay on his feet and not to slide -- it's improved but still the area that needs improvement."
Cabral will pair again with healed forward Erik Rasmussen, who set him up for a number of goals before falling to a nagging groin injury a month ago.
Opponent: St. Louis Ambush
Site: Baltimore Arena
Time: 7: 30
Radio: WCBM (680 AM)
Outlook: The Blast gets back forward Erik Rasmussen for the first time in six games. Rasmussen will replace J. J. Kremer, now on the injured list with a strained groin. Defender Doug Neely will miss his second game because of a strained back. This is the season's second meeting of the teams, the Blast having won in St. Louis, 13-11. The Blast, promoting the game heavily at the nearby National Soccer Coaches Association convention, may come out on fire tonight after only Denison Cabral made the All-Star Game. Those who missed: Lance Johnson, Scott Hileman, Danny Kelly and Paul Wright.