Blast quartet has All-Star aims today

Johnson, Cabral, Bowers and Hileman competing for East in Cleveland

Soccer

February 17, 2002|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,SUN STAFF

CLEVELAND -- Blast defender Lance Johnson just wants to be able to say he scored in an All-Star Game.

If his teammate, Denison Cabral, can put one away, you can rest assured his trademark flip celebration will follow with the possibility of an added twist.

Topping last year's performance could be a tough assignment for goalkeeper Scott Hileman, but he's excited at having the chance.

As for defender Sean Bowers, this afternoon's Major Indoor Soccer League All-Star Game at Gund Arena is another chance to enjoy some elite company and, hopefully, find a new story to tell.

"One All-Star Game, I'm marking Zoran Karic, who just loves taking people on one-on-one," said Bowers, who along with his three Blast teammates will compete on the East squad against the West. "He puts it through my legs, and then when I go to catch him, he puts it back through my legs, stops it, and lets me catch up to him. So the first thing I do when I get home is call my parents, and they were like, `Yeah, we saw that. Don't worry, everybody saw that.' "

The new MISL is putting on a dressed-up All-Star Weekend similar to the NHL and NBA celebrations. Festivities began Friday with players appearing at Cleveland schools and hospitals, continued yesterday with a skills competitions, and will conclude with a Legends Game followed by the All-Star Game at 3:30 p.m. today.

The game will be televised live nationally on CNN/SI, with CN8 carrying the feed for Comcast Cable subscribers.

"The league put a lot of work into the weekend, and Cleveland has, also, being the host," said Blast coach/general manager Kevin Healey. "We're looking to showcase our product -- give the fans and sponsors throughout the country a chance to see what we have to offer. It's a big weekend for us."

Blast midfielder Paul Wright also was selected to start for the East but decided to stay home to rest a sore ankle and hamstring. The league hasn't announced a replacement.

Bowers and Cabral also will start for the East, along with goalkeeper Peter Pappas and defender Pat Morris of the Philadelphia KiXX, and Harrisburg Heat forward David Bascome.

The league's top three scorers -- Cleveland's Hector Marinaro, Milwaukee's Joe Reiniger and Kansas City's Dino Delevski -- lead the West along with Milwaukee's standout goalkeeper, Victor Nogueira.

In last year's final National Professional Soccer League All-Star Game, the Blast's Hileman entered at the start of the second half to help the American Conference turn a 16-4 deficit into a 19-18 win.

"Last year, our side got off to a tough start, and by the time I got in there I think the other team had 11 of their goals out of their system," he said. "The momentum switched and made it a lot easier on me. It was a great experience."

Johnson recalls receiving a couple of nice feeds from Marinaro last year, but he couldn't finish. Cabral, a starter for the first time, had an assist last season but no flips.

"Every All-Star Game, I just try to keep it simple," Johnson said. "But as I've gotten older, I've taken more chances offensively. I had chances last year that I didn't put away, so I guess if there's one thing I'd like to do this year, it's score."

Said Cabral: "If I score, there's going to be a flip."

Maybe something special added? "You never know," he said.

That's when Blast teammate Giuliano Celenza chimed in: "How about the flip and then a split?"

To which Cabral quickly replied: "Yeah, and a bag of ice after."

The Legends Game, to start at 1:30 p.m., will feature former Cleveland Force standouts going against MISL stars of the past.

Among the former Blast notables participating are defender Mike Stankovic, who later coached the Baltimore Spirit, and goalkeeper Scott Manning.

MISL All-Star Game

When: Today, 3:30 p.m.

Where: Gund Arena, Cleveland

Coaches: East, Omid Namazi, Philadelphia KiXX; West, Keith Tozer, Milwaukee Wave.

TV: CN8

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