Blast brings Barber on board

Former Buffalo standout selected in draft, joins squad as camp opens


October 02, 2001|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,SUN STAFF

The Blast tended to some important business off the field, announcing the signing of midfielder Danny Barber, and then enthusiastically took to it yesterday morning. The team opened camp at Du Burns Arena in preparation for the 2001-02 Major Indoor Soccer League season that will kick off this month.

The Blast selected Barber with its first pick in the MISL Dispersal Draft, which distributed players from four teams of the now-defunct National Professional Soccer League that won't be playing in the new league this season.

Last season with the Buffalo Blizzard, Barber, 30, appeared in his second NPSL All-Star Game, finished with 87 points and often saved his best for the Blast. He said there was no question where he wanted to play next.

"When I knew Buffalo wasn't coming back, this was the only place I wanted to be, and I feel fortunate it all worked out," he said. "I'm going to work hard and do whatever it takes to get the job done, whether it be less points, more points or playing more defense. I think everyone here just wants to win, and that's what I'm about."

For Barber, yesterday was a new team in a new city and a new league, but a reunion of sorts will help ease the transition.

He was a teammate of fellow newcomer Dewan Bader in Buffalo; played with defender Doug Neely in Anaheim of the old Continental Indoor Soccer League; won a CISL championship with Tarik Walker in Las Vegas; and played outdoors with Paul Wright and Sean Bowers for Kansas City in the Major Soccer League.

"I'm familiar with so many of the guys, I'm comfortable and I know what they're all about. And obviously, there's also a lot of guys I haven't played with, but just from playing against them over the four or five years, you know who brings what to the table," he said. "They just want to do what I want to do, and that's work hard and win. I think that's the basis of any strong team, especially if you have a good mix of veterans like these guys. And unfortunately, they haven't gotten to the next step as quickly as they would have liked, but that means they're still hungry."

Blast coach Kevin Healey sees Barber as an ideal fit to an already dangerous midfield.

"It's a big help for us. We're certainly happy to have him in our locker room vs. us having to plan on how to stop him," he said. "He works hard all the time, plays off the ball and off other people, and that's easy to adjust into your team. The additional speed and creative play he's going to give us is going to be helpful."

The Blast had 25 players in camp yesterday, and Healey will need to trim the roster to 20 for the team's home opener Oct. 20 against Harrisburg.

Here's a breakdown by position of what the Blast brought to yesterday's opening practice:

Forwards: Veterans Lee Tschantret and Walker, who combined for 177 points last season, will be the primary target players. Healey is undecided who else will see time up front. It will either be Giuliano Celenza or Danny Santoro, with the other moving back to midfield. Derrick Marcano provides versatility, with the ability to play on defense and at forward. The Blast decided not to offer veteran Mark Thomas a contract this season.

Midfielders: A team strength with explosive speed and offensive firepower, the addition of Barber makes it that much more potent. Denison Cabral and Wright led the Blast in scoring last season with 134 and 103 points, respectively, and there's plenty of depth to wear an opponent down. A healthy Danny Kelly, returning from a broken foot suffered in last season's final playoff game, is a must. J.J. Kremer is another dangerous threat who continues to develop.

Defenders: Expect much more poised play in back with Bowers (99 points last season with Detroit) and Bader now in the mix with captain Lance Johnson, Neely and Jason Dieter. With the elimination of the over-and-back rule, allowing teams to play the ball back behind the defensive yellow line, Healey said it is imperative to have defenders who can confidently hold the ball and make better passes to break out. Veteran Scott Schweitzer, whom the Blast acquired from Cleveland for its second pick in the dispersal draft, will have shoulder surgery after his outdoor season with Rochester in the A League and not be signed, though the Blast retains his indoor rights. The team also decided not to bring back Ronnie Simmons.

Goalkeeper: Who will be more important to the Blast's overall success than returning starter Scott Hileman? He went 21-17 with a 12.25 points-against average and earned his first NPSL All-Star appearance last season, and will be asked to do even more this season. With last year's backup, Josh Campbell, deciding not to return due to a shoulder injury, the Blast has no proven player in that role.

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