Off to a 7-0 start and among the National Professional Soccer League leaders in points-against average, Blast keeper Scott Hileman is certainly enjoying his time in Baltimore.
So much so, he plans to stay around for a few more years.
The five-year veteran, who turned 28 earlier this month, signed a two-year contract extension Monday that will keep him in Baltimore at least through the 2002-03 season.
"It's just nice to know where you're going to be for the next couple years, and I like playing in Baltimore," Hileman said. "My wife [Melissa] has a real nice job here, and there's not a better organization in the league.
"They treat you like a professional, and the fans in Baltimore are dedicated and know the game. There's not anything more a player can want."
The Blast continues to make all the right moves on and off the field. Just before the season opened, the team extended midfielder Denison Cabral's contract and, with Hileman now on board for an additional two years, just about every player is either signed or with a team option through next season.
"This is keeping with our philosophy to keep the guys together, with the chance of picking up a player or two as needed and also developing the younger guys," said Blast general manager-coach Kevin Healey.
Hileman spent his first two NPSL seasons with Edmonton, then opened the 1998-99 campaign with the now-defunct Florida Thundercats before moving north to Baltimore later that season.
His seven wins this season leads the league, along with his .800 shootout save percentage. He ranks second in points-against at 10.28 a game, and his .737 overall save percentage also is second best in the league.
"Scott is truly the backbone of our defense," Healey said. "He comes up big in the big games, communicates well in back, and has helped our team improve defensively over the years."
With the NPSL taking over the Edmonton franchise last week after owner Wojtek Wojcicki failed to meet payroll obligations, the Drillers fans showed their support and were rewarded with two wins over defending league champion Milwaukee.
After averaging a little more than 3,000 a game in their first two home games, the Drillers had more than 16,000 in the two games last week - including a season-high 9,329 for Saturday's 16-10 victory over the Wave at the Skyreach Center.
The league continues to make a concerted effort to find new local ownership for the franchise that started in 1988.
The Drillers are tied for second in the National Conference with a 5-2 mark, going a perfect 4-0 at home so far.
Wichita forward Dino Delevski was named NPSL Player of the Week after his 12-point week in two wins over Kansas City.
He finished with seven points in a 23-6 victory Friday and came back with a five-point effort in a 17-11 win on Saturday as the Wings improved to 5-2 for the season.
Held pointless for the first time in the Blast's 16-14 victory over Philadelphia on Saturday, Cabral doesn't lead the league in scoring for the first time this season. With 37 points, Wichita's Jason Dunn has moved to the top spot. Cabral is tied for second with Delevski at 34. Braeden Cloutier (31 points) gives the Wings three of the league's top five scorers. ... The NPSL has hired Brian Fleming as director of soccer operations. Fleming was general manager for the U.S. women's national team. ... With its 7-0 start, the Blast is three wins away from tying the franchise's all-time best start. The Spirit started the 1993-94 season with 10 straight victories. The Blast will go for its eighth straight win, in Harrisburg on Saturday.