At 9-7, Blast's road approach second to none in conference

Healey says camaraderie major reason for success

NPSL notebook

March 08, 2000|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

The general consensus on the formula for winning road games in the National Professional Soccer League is to stay close, don't let the home team go on any major runs and then hope for the best at the end.

"That's not how we look at it," said Blast coach Kevin Healey, whose team is an American Conference-best 9-7 on the road. "We want to go into the opposing team's arena and put pressure on them. We want to try and take control of the game."

It's a confident approach, but the Blast seems to have the team to implement it.

The Blast has gone into six opposing teams' arenas and come away with victories.

The only teams the Blast has not beaten on the road are Milwaukee (a 12-10 overtime loss) and Cleveland. The Blast will make its first and only appearances in Kansas City and Wichita later this season.

Milwaukee is the only other team that has a winning record on the road, going 10-8. In the NPSL, road teams win about 35 percent of the time.

"Some of it is the different arena sizes," Healey said. "It's also difficult just sitting in the hotel room before you get ready to play.

"I think the difference for us is that this team gets along well. They go out with each other and hang out together. The camaraderie is really high."

Such was the case in Sunday's win over Edmonton, in which Healey said the victory made a long trip not so long. It was the second win in the midst of a six-game road trip for the Blast, a situation caused, in part, by the circus at Baltimore Arena.

The team is 2-1 so far on the trip, which for most teams, already makes it a success.

"If you look at the history of this franchise, we've had some solid years, but we've always had problems with winning road trips late in the season," Healey said.

"We can reflect on what we've done so far and say we're 2-1. That's not bad."

Crunch back on top

It took 20 weeks, but Cleveland has regained its normal spot atop the Central Division.

The Montreal Impact had been in first place all season before losing its last three games, while the Crunch had won its past six going into last night's game against Buffalo.

Much of the credit goes to Crunch goalkeeper Otto Orf, who is the Defensive Player of the Month for February. Orf went 5-1 in the month, with a 9.17 points-against average.

KiXX forward Domenic Mobilio was the Offensive Player of the Month.

Cleveland and Montreal play Saturday in what is the league's tightest division race.

Milwaukee (27-9), which is part of the league's least competitive division, became the first team to clinch a playoff birth by beating Detroit, 29-7, Sunday.

More Blast

Goalkeeper Scott Hileman won his 20th game of the season Sunday, the second time in his career he has won at least 20. Only 18 goalkeepers in the NPSL have accomplished that. Hileman also did it before during the 1996-97 season in Edmonton.

Midfielder Danny Santoro scored his career-high 32nd point in Sunday's win.

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