All-Star snub has Blast coach wondering

Team tops in conference, but only Cabral is picked

NPSL notebook

January 27, 2000|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

Blast coach Kevin Healey fully expected what he viewed as a wrong to be corrected when he looked at the eight names added to the National Professional Soccer League All-Star teams.

Much to his chagrin, it was not.

Healey's Blast still has only one representative in Tuesday's All-Star Game in Edmonton. That's Denison Cabral, although severalothers on the team with the American Conference's best record could have made their cases.

"I can't understand it," Healey said. "I'm disappointed about the voting, and we are disappointed as an organization."

The voting was done by the players and coaches. After the initial list of All-Stars came out two weeks ago, the league held open four slots for each team.

Healey said early last week that he expected to see Blast players get a few of those open spots.

Given that statistics are a major factor in the voting of players and coaches, though, it's no wonder the Blast has one representative. Cabral is the only Blast player in the league's top 10 in points -- with 85. Midfielder Danny Kelly is second on the team with 62.

The Blast's other points are distributed pretty evenly among several who have put up major totals in seasons past. Erik Rasmussen, Paul Wright, Tarik Walker and Mark Thomas -- former 100-point scorers -- all range between 35 and 54 points this season.

"The scoring on our team is so balanced," Healey said. "I'm sure that had a lot to do with it. I'm not going to call around and to the coaches and find out who voted for who."

The Blast players who may have been jilted work mostly on defense. Healey said goalkeeper Scott Hileman and defender Lance Johnson have both had All-Star seasons.

Hileman leads the league in wins (14) and minutes (1,345). His 363 saves rank second to Montreal's Paolo Ceccarelli (396). What may have hurt Hileman was his 12.35 points-against average, sixth in the league; the four chosen goalkeepers were in the top five.

Johnson is coming off a defensive Player of the Week award after scoring eight points and blocking six shots in the last three games.

He leads NPSL defenders in points (24) and is third on the Blast in blocks (37).

"It is a situation where we are in first place," Hileman said. "Coaches come up to you after games and pat you on the back and tell you how good a team you are. Then, when it comes time to vote, they don't put their money where their mouth is."

Philadelphia, the Blast's East Division rival, has four All-Stars. Montreal and Edmonton are tied for the most with five.

Erik the scorer

Rasmussen has returned to his former All-Star form after missing six games on the disabled list.

In the four games since he has returned, Rasmussen has posted 18 points, including a season-high nine in the Blast's last game, against Harrisburg.

"On free kicks, he has been outstanding -- especially over that stretch where we had a bunch of games in a short time," Healey said. "We basically had to use him just for free kicks, because we wanted to keep him fresh."

Miscellaneous

The Blast will be without defender Doug Neely tomorrow in Montreal and at home Saturday against Cleveland. Neely went back on the disabled list with a torn lower-back muscle. J. J. Kremer also will be inactive for this weekend's games with a strained groin muscle. Kelly will play after missing last week with a strained hamstring.

Impact forward Mauro Biello won the league's Offensive Player of the Week award.

Edmonton coach Ross Ongaro will coach Team Canada, and Milwaukee coach Keith Tozer will coach Team USA in the All-Star Game.

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