Blast to give pair of goalkeepers early-season look

Rowland, Konig to get share of time in goal

Soccer

September 20, 2004|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

During the Blast's consecutive runs to the MISL championship, one of the constants was Scott Hileman's performance in goal.

Last year was the best of Hileman's career, including a Most Valuable Player award for the league championship. But it also turned out to be his last go-around after eight seasons, leaving the Blast with its largest riddle as it began its training camp last week.

Finding out when, how or if it can replace Hileman may turn out not to be a major concern. Still, the club isn't taking any chances. Like last year, the plan is to keep two goalkeepers on the roster. But while Hileman had most of the minutes, neither Brian Rowland nor Martin Konig will sit much until the superior player emerges.

"I'd like to have a tandem," Blast head coach Tim Wittman said. "We'd like to let these things play out. Both are inexperienced, but how do you get experience without playing?"

To help support the goalkeepers, the team is expected to further improve its corps of defenders by signing former MISL All-Star Scott Schweitzer, a player who hasn't played indoor soccer since 2001, when the Blast acquired the 32-year-old from the Cleveland Crunch for a draft pick.

While Rowland said he would like to impress, Schweitzer, Danny Kelly, Neil Gilbert and newcomer Adilson De Lima will give him and Konig a cushion at first.

"It's good to know that you have some slack," said Rowland. "No matter what you do, you're going to want to impress, but you don't want it where it's like a suicide mission."

But while change assists general manager Kevin Healey in his roster philosophy of "spicing it up a bit," Schweitzer would join De Lima and Konig as the only additions on a team that had the league's second-best record (25-11).

Leading point man Carlos Farias and leading goal-scorer Denison Cabral return on a team that Wittman believes was just starting to play its best soccer at the end of the season.

"We were at a high when we were at Milwaukee," Wittman said, referring to the site where the Blast won its second title. "That's where we want to continue."

For obstacles, the Blast doesn't have to look far. All three teams from Baltimore's Eastern Division made the playoffs last spring, with Philadelphia and Cleveland seeming to make it the toughest road.

And while the Blast has triumphed in the playoffs, Milwaukee has gone 55-17 over the past two years, while reaching the finals in six of the past seven seasons.

All of which serves as a reminder for a Blast team that knows its gap over the competition isn't as large as consecutive titles would indicate.

"The good news is that everyone is coming back," team captain Tarik Walker said. "And we're going to need that, because we have a bull's-eye on our chest."

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