Thomas picks a good time to turn up skills for Blast

37 points in past 8 games, heady play draw praise

NPSL notebook

February 23, 2000|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

When teams prepare to face the Blast, according to coach Kevin Healey, they can't focus on stopping one player.

They may have to now. And it is not leading scorer and lone All-Star Denison Cabral, but rather Mark Thomas, whose 65 points are fourth on the team.

Sixty-five at this point of the season is not an overwhelming number, but 37 have come over the past eight games, including 10 in Sunday's 34-15 win over Kansas City.

"He's been key," Healey said. "I don't think it was a coincidence that we didn't do that well earlier in the year, when he was injured.

"The thing that you initially say about Mark is how intelligent he is. He knows where to be at all times. He closes the game very well. He reads the game extremely well."

Thomas agreed with Healey's assessment and added that he tries to use his teammates' abilities more than his own to make things happen.

"I may use Paul Wright's speed or Lance [Johnson] being good at coming out of the back," Thomas said. "I also try and create a lot of havoc around the net."

With the "anybody can score at any time" philosophy the Blast has adopted, Thomas' point total might be higher if he was on another team.

His take on that: It doesn't matter.

"I've scored over 100 points many times in my career," he said. "I think everybody enjoys scoring goals. But it's not something I set out to do. I know people say, `Well, you're a forward, so you should be looking to score.' But I think as long as you work hard, good things will happen."

Ineffective Ambush

One of the biggest surprises with almost three-quarters of the National Professional Soccer League schedule complete comes from the defending National Conference-champion St. Louis Ambush.

The Ambush (7-24) has lost nine in a row and has the worst record in the league. It is the only team in the NPSL not to have reached double digits in wins.

St. Louis is not alone in its struggles. None of the teams that won their divisions last year is in first place this season. The Blast (East), Montreal (Central), Milwaukee (North) and Kansas City (Midwest) have supplanted Philadelphia, Cleveland, Edmonton and St. Louis, respectively.

The Blast (19-11) has had the biggest turnaround, winning five more games than it did at this point last season. The 19 wins match last year's total.

More Blast

Defender Doug Neely practiced yesterday but is doubtful for this weekend's games. He has missed the last six games with an injured back.

The Blast went over the 90,000 mark for total attendance Sunday. The team ranks sixth in the league with an average of 5,317 fans.

Paul Wright scored his 200th point for the Baltimore franchise on his assist to Erik Rasmussen in the third quarter Sunday.

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