Blast rookie starting anew

Soccer: At 30, goalkeeper Karim Mounban is learning the indoor version of the sport he has played outdoors as a pro, and he's loving it.

Soccer

March 09, 2002|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,SUN STAFF

When his car wasn't working last summer, Blast rookie goalkeeper Karim Mounban took a bus from Silver Spring to Baltimore and then a cab from the station to practice.

That was for just casual workouts with no coaches or roll calls. The team's official preseason camp was still a month away, but it didn't matter to Mounban, 30, a Cameroon native who speaks English with a heavy accent and wears a constant smile.

"To get something, you have to show first what you can do," he said. "And then you can get what you want."

All Mounban was looking for was a chance, but that took time. Despite having practiced with the Blast since the season's start, the team couldn't sign him to a contract until two weeks ago, when a visa to work in the United States finally arrived.

On Sunday in Harrisburg, with the Blast (14-18) playing its third game in three days and having lost six straight, starting goalkeeper Scott Hileman got a rest, and Mounban got his first career start in the Major Indoor Soccer League. The game was a 15-10 Blast victory in which Mounban made 23 saves.

"My first game indoor," said Mounban. "I just watch people play, take what the coaches teach and take it to the field. I just tried my best to help my team. I was very happy, because I did my part for the team."

One first-quarter save in particular seemed to get everybody's attention, best displaying Mounban's agility and quickness.

"The ball was going in on his right side, and Karim dove back and batted it out right at the goal line. It was the greatest save I've seen in indoors in quite awhile," said Blast forward Giuliano Celenza.

Added assistant coach Billy Ronson: "Even the Harrisburg bench looked over and went, `Are you kidding me? Where did he come from?' "

Mounban played outdoor soccer professionally in France, Thailand and Malaysia before coming to the United States, where he has lived 1 1/2 years with his brother, Ismael, in Silver Spring.

A tip from former Washington Warthogs assistant coach Clyde Watson, now an assistant coach for the Washington Freedom of the Women's United Soccer Association, sent him the Blast's way.

"As soon as he came in, you could see he had good foot skills, and he was very, very quick. It was just a matter of him learning the indoor game," said Blast head coach Kevin Healey. "You wonder when you're piecing the puzzle together in practice, bringing him along by pointing out mistakes and helping to correct them. But the true test is the game, and he showed he has come a long way."

Following the win in Harrisburg, Mounban was given a round of applause by teammates. Later, Ronson gave him the tape of his first career win. More smiles.

"He has a lot of fun with the game, and he's certainly confident in his abilities," said Blast defender Jason Dieter, who is sidelined with a knee injury. "And having said that, he performed big in that game, and we needed that win."

Mounban will get a second straight start tonight in Cleveland with Hileman beginning a two-game suspension for his part in Sunday's post-game melee.

He said the most difficult transition from the outdoor game to indoor soccer has been getting comfortable with the boards and finding shots with all the traffic in front.

"It's refreshing to see a guy come in and show how much he wants to play," Healey said. "He's in a new country, and he's battling to get his opportunity. ... I think it's refreshing to everyone: Here's a guy who wants it and just enjoys life."

Pro soccer

MISL standings

W L Pct. GB

Milwaukee 25 8 .758 -

Philadelphia 22 11 .667 3

Kansas City 18 13 .581 6

Blast 14 18 .438 10 1/2

Cleveland 10 23 .303 15

Harrisburg 8 24 .250 16 1/2

Yesterday's result

Cleveland 14, Milwaukee 10

Today's games

Blast at Cleveland, 7:35 p.m. Kansas City at Milwaukee, 1:05 p.m.

Tomorrow's game

Harrisburg vs. Philadelphia at Trenton, N.J., 5:05 p.m.

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