Simmons' 3-point touch boosts Blast

Kitson, ex-Blast star, Mania coach, gets new job

NPSL notebook


High Schools

March 03, 2000|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

After his last three-point goal, Blast defender Ronnie Simmons pumped his fists, bear-hugged anyone near him, and most importantly, rejuvenated a home crowd that watched its team go scoreless in the first half.

One rocket-shot off his leg against Philadelphia on Saturday cut the KiXX lead in half and gave Simmons a career high seven three-point goals.

Simmons, 35, leads the Blast in three-pointers this season, many of which have the same effect as in basketball -- a sudden momentum switch, similar to the one that occurred Saturday.

"Ronnie's three-pointers have pretty much come at critical times this year -- like in the Philadelphia game," said Blast coach Kevin Healey, whose team could use one tonight, when it plays at Cleveland at 7: 35. "We couldn't buy a goal. He hits a three-pointer, and that gives everyone life. He's scored a lot of three-pointers early in games this year."

For Simmons, two things lead to success, power and accuracy. That basically sums up how someone is able to hit a three-pointer from halfway between the yellow line and midfield stripe, as Simmons did earlier this season.

"My first option on restart goals is to try [to]shoot it," Simmons said. "If that option is taken away, then I look for a pass to Danny Kelly. I usually try [to] take what is given by the defense.

"Sometimes I'm fortunate, because I'll get some defensive lapses where there is a split in the wall or on the side of the wall. My favorite is -- well, I shouldn't tell it."

Eventually, he did say that he liked to go top right corner. The thing is, if the ball is placed well enough, a save by a goalkeeper who knows Simmons' tendencies is still difficult, if not impossible to make.

He has 23 three-point goals in his five-year National Professional Soccer League career. He entered the season 30th on the the all-time NPSL list for threes.

"You got some people going as far as calling me `Three-point Ronnie,' " Simmons said. "It is a big lift."

His offense has not come at the expense of his defense, Simmons' primary role on the team. At 6 feet, 195 pounds, he is one of the bigger defenders, leading the team in blocks this season with 61.

Kitson hired in Buffalo

After losing two consecutive games and six of its last 10, Buffalo fired coach George Fernandez and named '80s Blast star Paul Kitson interim coach.

The Blizzard (14-18) is in last place in the Central Division. Fernandez, 38, was in his second season as coach after finishing 22-18 last year.

"Fernandez is a good coach, and his efforts should be acknowledged, but we had different philosophies and want to take the team in another direction," Blizzard general manager Michael Ferguson said.

Kitson, 44, coached the Montreal Impact for most of the last two seasons and spent last summer in Baltimore as third coach of the Maryland Mania, the ill-fated A-League entry.

He led the indoor Impact -- he also coached the franchise's former A-League entry -- to a 19-21 record last season and into the second round of the NPSL playoffs.

Blast tonight

Opponent: Cleveland Crunch

Site: CSU Convocation Center, Cleveland

Time: 7: 35

Radio: WCBM (680 AM

Outlook: The Crunch (17-15) owns a 3-1 season-series advantage. Cleveland and Wichita are the only teams that have winning records against the Blast. Crunch forward Hector Marinaro's 153 points rank third in the league. Of all the games in this six-match trip, the Blast might need this one the most to gain some confidence against the Crunch, a team it has struggled with the past few years and may see in the first round of the playoffs.

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