The Blast has begun piecing together its roster for the Major Indoor Soccer League season set to begin next month, maintaining its stance on continuity while adding some established talent.
At a news conference yesterday afternoon, general manager/head coach Kevin Healey announced the signings of veteran defenders Sean Bowers and Dewan Bader, along with the news that 13 players from last year's team will return.
With the dissolving of the National Professional Soccer League, Healey had to re-sign every player under the new MISL entity, working with a $300,000 salary cap.
Signed and ready for Monday's first practice are forwards Tarik Walker, Lee Tschantret and Giuliano Celenza; midfielders Denison Cabral, Danny Santoro, J.J. Kremer, Danny Kelly and Paul Wright; defenders Jason Dieter, Doug Nealy, Derrick Marcano and Lance Johnson, and goalkeeper Scott Hileman.
Healey also said negotiations with former Buffalo Blizzard midfielder Danny Barber, the Blast's first selection in last month's draft, are going well and he expects the two-time NPSL All-Star to be signed before camp opens next week.
Notable players not offered contracts were defender Ronnie Simmons and forward Mark Thomas.
"With salary cap issues the way they are now, you can't bring everybody back," said Healey, who praised the past contributions of Simmons and Thomas.
Bowers, a two-time NPSL Defender of the Year formerly with the Detroit Rockers, and Bader, a Potomac native who came from the Blizzard, were selections in last month's dispersal draft of players with NPSL teams that aren't competing in the new league this season.
"We looked at our team and thought we needed to improve our defense -- particularly holding the ball and in transition," Healey said.
Healey expects to have 22 players in camp, keeping the number low so the team can quickly gel for the home opener Oct. 20 against the Harrisburg Heat. Bowers, 33, and Bader, 30, are happy to be among them.
"Probably the most important thing I can bring is some more experience," said Bowers, who finished with 99 points for the Rockers last season. "And it just might be the little things, to be honest with you, because I thought they had the most talented team last year."
Bader, who won a championship early in his NPSL career with Cleveland before moving to Harrisburg, Detroit and Buffalo, is hoping to stay put in Baltimore.
"It's going to be great just having family and friends around and it's nice to feel grounded again. I made it clear that I want to retire a Blast player, whether it's one year or seven," he said.