Blast breathes easy with Hileman on job

Keeper's work ethic, confidence no small pluses for teammates

Soccer

January 25, 2002|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,SUN STAFF

The uniqueness of the goalkeeper is evident before a game, when the goalies walk onto the playing surface wearing different-colored jerseys from their teammates.

It's also a roller-coaster of a position - particularly in the indoor game, where the shots often come at a rapid pace, with big saves coming one minute and goals sneaking past the next.

Blast keeper Scott Hileman, who was named to his second straight All-Star Game on Wednesday, has found a way to balance it out over the course of his six-year pro career: playing as much as he can.

The only keeper in the Major Indoor Soccer League to start in all of his team's games - 20 going into tonight's home game against the Cleveland Crunch with a 10-10 mark - Hileman has logged more minutes (1,181) and turned aside more shots (289) than anyone, while maintaining a solid, 11.73 points-against average.

Rest? Hileman said there will be plenty of time for that when he's through playing.

"I think for me, I've never known anything different. I'm used to playing a lot of games and, mentally, I just try to concentrate on each game as it comes," he said. "In this game, there's a lot of demands placed on the goalkeeper and I like it. I like the pressure."

And Blast coach Kevin Healey likes having Hileman there to handle that pressure.

"Scott's a proven commodity, and having a quality goalkeeper is a must for winning in this league," he said. "He's a very intelligent goalkeeper. Athletically, he makes the saves and also just knowing the game and directing out there - we have a lot of confidence in him."

What Blast defender and team captain Lance Johnson likes most about working in front of Hileman is his "you do your job and I'll do mine" approach, with certain accountability.

"He lets us know what we need to do to help him out and the team, and if he makes a mistake, he'll say, `I made a mistake.' You like his confidence that he's able to do that and be comfortable with that," said Johnson.

"He's just a mentally tough guy. When he's had a tough time - which everybody does - he bounces back and nothing seems to rattle him. That's something you need in a keeper."

Defender Sean Bowers, in his first season with the Blast, has seen the same qualities from Hileman.

"With Scott, it's confidence, and he knows that's something he has to bring every night because others feed off that. He's the man here. He's going to be in there for just about every minute and he relishes that," he said.

Hileman said a soft goal allowed can keep him up at night wondering what he might have done differently. At this point, it's easier to deal with when you've already faced 399 shots and the season is only halfway done. For Hileman, it's a season-long balancing act.

And when back-to-back games come, like this weekend with Kansas City in town tomorrow following tonight's game against the Crunch, Hileman said the best way for him to get him back up for the second game is to win the first one.

"I think that plays a huge role," he said. "Either way, you've got to get up and be ready to play a game. But if you win the night before, for some reason, your body feels a whole lot better going into the next game."

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