KiXX, Wave to test Blast's new confidence

MISL's conference leaders to visit tonight, tomorrow

Soccer

January 31, 2003|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,SUN STAFF

When asked what Bobby McAvan has brought to the Blast in his first 10 games as coach, second-year defender Billy Nelson didn't come back with any complicated tactics or rah-rah rhetoric.

Just simple words.

"A lot of confidence," said Nelson, last year's Major Indoor Soccer League Rookie of the Year. "He believes in us and stresses that a lot. I think people are a little more relaxed, and we're starting to play better as a team. He just wants us to get back to our winning ways and brings a lot to the table in that way."

It will be a continuing process, but the Blast appears to be steadily finding its legs. The team, still in the basement of the MISL's Eastern Conference at 9-14, is coming off consecutive wins for the first time this season. The team has asserted itself on home turf since McAvan took over Dec. 9.

Last weekend's consecutive home wins over Kansas City and San Diego has the Blast 5-1 at 1st Mariner Arena and lifted McAvan's mark to 5-5. The team is a half game behind the Harrisburg Heat (10-14) for third place and the final playoff spot.

As for protecting the home field, the Blast will never find it any tougher than this weekend with a visit from defending league champ Philadelphia tonight followed by league runner-up Milwaukee tomorrow night.

The KiXX (18-4) leads the Eastern Conference, and the Wave (18-5) is comfortably atop the Western Conference.

"We're feeling good -- it's the first time we've won two games in a row all season. But this is the big test, playing the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the league," said McAvan.

Practice time since McAvan has taken charge has been based less on tactics and more on simply throwing the ball out and going at it.

"I think that may be the biggest thing, that we pretty much play every day in practice, and because of it, our touches are sharper," said midfielder Dewan Bader, the league's Offensive Player of the Week after posting nine points in the two wins. "He's turned a lot over to the veterans as far as when we're on the field."

The Blast announced that midfielder Allen Eller signed an MISL offer sheet. The Blast obtained Eller's rights in Wednesday's trade that sent forward Gino DiFlorio to the Harrisburg Heat.

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