Sweating those details sets Tschantret apart

Blast forward proving little things mean a lot

Soccer

February 01, 2002|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,SUN STAFF

The Kansas City Comets sent the opening tap back to their goalkeeper Saturday, and simultaneously arriving with the ball was Blast forward Lee Tschantret.

The unexpected pressure hurried a clear that found the stands and, just like that, the Blast had a free kick.

It was the first of many little things from the energetic Tschantret in the 22nd game of a grinding 44-game Major Indoor Soccer League season. All of them added up quickly to bigger things - this time, establishing the tone for a 16-12 win that put the Blast at 11-11 going into tonight's game against the first-place Milwaukee Wave at the Baltimore Arena.

It's the first of two home games this weekend for the Blast, which entertains the Harrisburg Heat tomorrow night.

There's no question that attention to detail and hard work has long been the Tschantret way.

"One of my coaches always said sweat the little things because they make the difference - receiving the ball properly, working on your first touch, moving off the ball, things like that," he said. "I'm a big fan of those little things, and I think they make the difference, especially in a league where everybody is good."

Consider those little things a bonus from Tschantret, 32, who also ranks fifth on the team in scoring with 12 goals and 14 assists for 40 points, and third in blocked shots with 22 - rare for a forward.

When the Blast acquired the veteran of 11 seasons just before the start of last season, coach Kevin Healey had had an outside look at the work rate he brought. The closer, everyday look has created even more appreciation.

"There's working hard and yet another level, which is where Lee is at," said Healey. "You know he's going to give it up for what he thinks is needed to win a game and, on top of that, his skill level is very good.

"So not only are you getting a tremendous effort from a very, very good player, but that type of thing is contagious, and other players are reacting off that, which is what it takes in this league. You can have all the variables in place - offense, defense, restarts - but if you don't work hard, you don't win."

The hard work was instilled in Tschantret at a young age.

He grew up in a tough part of Albany, N.Y., was the youngest of nine for parents who came from Italy. He lost his dad, a construction worker - "a very strong man" - when he was 10 years old. Pride comes with Tschantret every time he walks onto the field.

"My brother always told me, `You can't buy professionalism, and you can't buy integrity,' and those are two things I've always had, no matter what - whether I was the youngest player out there or the oldest," said Tschantret. "My family has always stressed whatever I do, always give it everything you have, and whatever happens, happens. But you can always look in the mirror and say you gave it everything you had."

Blast assistant coach Billy Ronson put it this way: "Lee brings a lot to the table, and you know what he's bringing ... everything he's got."

Against the Comets last weekend, Tschantret had some chances he didn't finish. He knows what runs to make to leave open space for teammates, tracks back on defense as hard as moving forward on offense, and plays his shifts with emotion and high energy.

"I take every play kind of personal," he said. "If I'm going at somebody and I don't beat them, it's kind of a man vs. man thing, and vice-versa when I'm playing defense."

It's an impression not lost to his teammates.

"The biggest thing I see with Lee is he hates to lose, and that's something you need a lot of on your team," said Blast defender Sean Bowers. "He's just all over the field, busting his butt, and that's just how he is. To me, there's really no negative that comes with Lee."

When rookie midfielder Craig Scheer was signed earlier in the season, Tschantret, his wife, Erin, with their soon-to-be 1-year-old son, Massimo, welcomed him to their home in Canton while he settled into the area. Tschantret had played outdoors with Scheer for Hershey in the A-League in 1999 and was instrumental in getting him the chance with the Blast.

"Him and his wife are so giving - it was like I was one of the family," said Scheer. "They just looked after me."

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