Suddenly, Blast took back seat

Soccer: Lee Tschantret hasn't lasted 10 years in the NPSL by letting his attention wander, but a recent phone call sent game thoughts flying.


January 19, 2001|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,SUN STAFF

Blast forward Lee Tschantret found himself in two places at the same time a couple of Fridays ago.

He was physically in Wichita with the rest of his teammates for the Jan. 5 game against the Wings, but his mind was back home in Albany, N.Y., where he grew up the youngest of nine children of proud Italian immigrant parents.

His thoughts spent the night going back and forth.

Less than an hour before game time, a knock on the visitors' locker-room door had been followed by word that the 31-year-old Tschantret had an emergency phone call. Next came one of the most difficult nights of Tschantret's life.

"At first, I thought it was [his expecting wife] Erin, that she went into labor, but then I saw it was a work number in New York - I assumed it was about my mom," he said.

Unfortunately, Tschantret's assumption was right.

His mother, Rose, whom he called the "matriarch of a super-tight family," had died of a heart attack at age 76.

You can see a piece of Tschantret's upbringing every time he takes the field, which, for 10 years, has been in the National Professional Soccer League. This is his first season with the Blast.

Tschantret grew up in a poor neighborhood, and his dad, Aldo, a construction worker, died when Tschantret was 10. While his mother, who spoke little English, stayed at home to hold down the fort, his brothers and sisters took jobs to support the family.

"When my dad died, she kept the family together. She worked real hard and basically kept all the kids - not on a tight rope - but just tried to teach us good values and a good work ethic," Tschantret said.

"You follow your dreams and if it doesn't work out, you can always look in the mirror and say you gave it everything you had. My mom was big on that. She was never `we don't have as much as anyone else' or `we live in a poor neighborhood.' She was always like `we have a lot more than a lot of people and we have each other.' "

So Tschantret goes to work every day, practice and games alike, with a tireless approach and a deep appreciation of a supportive family. Only he and his sister, Rosanna, are no longer living in the Albany area, with the other seven siblings all within 15 minutes of each other. Tschantret is on the telephone a lot.

"We're just real tight, always there for each other with respect for each other," he said. "In a big family, you might think there would be a little envy because they all basically went right to work to support the family. What I am today is a benefactor of my family."

Tschantret has played for seven teams in the NPSL. With help from his brother, who works for an airline, his mother had the chance to see him play in most of the different cities.

"She loved seeing me play and she loved the fact that I was playing. She loved that I followed my dream," he said.

The locker room went quiet when Blast coach Kevin Healey relayed the news, while Tschantret was left alone with his thoughts.

"When Lee came back, all the players went to him one by one and just hugged him. There wasn't much anyone could say," Healey said.

After the rest of the team went out for the warm-up, Tschantret sat by himself for five more minutes, putting the rest of his gear on and then going out.

"He came back in and I just gave him a little shrug. He said, `Coach, I'm ready to play,' " Healey said.

"I don't know," Tschantret said. "It was either sit there and think about it for the next three hours and watch your team struggle without you, or suck it up, try to get it out of your mind for a little bit and help the boys out. That's kind of what I did."

The Blast went on to win, 19-10, and Tschantret, third on the team with 38 points going into tonight's game in Detroit, scored the goal that put it away.

Exhausted, more mentally than physically, he said he doesn't remember much more about the game, going as far as asking midfielder Danny Kelly whether he played well.

"That's just Lee," Kelly said. "He loves to play the game. For him to play after finding out something like that, I don't know how he did it. He's just a strong person."

Healey said throughout the game it was the same old Tschantret - the same competitive self, the same vocal leadership.

"You would have never known until he scored that goal, and then he shed a little tear," Healey added.

You just know his mother was proud.

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