Blast begins its quest for threepeat

Building on success, team adds All-Star goalie

opener tonight in S.D.

Soccer

October 09, 2004|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,SUN STAFF

This is how Blast coach Tim Wittman sees it: If you have to go to work every day, you might as well have fun. And what could be more fun than winning?

He and his players should know. The Blast has won the past two Major Indoor Soccer League championships, and the team hopes to take the first step toward three in a row tonight, when it opens its 2004-05 season in San Diego against the Sockers.

"Last year, I think a lot of guys were out to prove we can sustain success throughout the entire year," said Blast midfielder Lee Tschantret. "We did, and going into the playoffs, we all felt comfortable with one another, with our talent, and our work rate. That's the same thing we want to do this year."

The team's success has brought an "if-it-ain't-broke-don't-fix-it"' approach this season as it tries to accomplish the rare threepeat.

The only major roster changes have come on defense. Goalkeeper Sagu, an All-Star with the Dallas Sidekicks last season, replaces the retired Scott Hileman, and savvy veteran defender Scott Schweitzer has been added.

Otherwise, Wittman expects much of the same from his group: Work hard in practice, carry it over into games and be accountable.

"Our first day in camp, I was talking about them being champions, going out there with confidence and playing up to their abilities," said Wittman. "They know they can do it, because they've done it. Now, the mental aspect is the big thing. I think each of the players has to say to themselves, `I want to be a better player,' so they have to find out a way to be a better player."

All-Star defender Danny Kelly, who was still going full speed during the third hour of Thursday's practice, said it starts there.

"We train hard every day, and even though it's just practice, we're playing to win," he said. "We push each other in practice, and we push each other in games. And we're all in it together - we win as a team and lose as a team. Obviously, we're not going to win every game we'd like to. But if we focus on doing the little things right, we know we have the players that can give us the opportunity to win a lot of games."

And perhaps a third straight championship?

"Sounds good," said All-Star midfielder Denison Cabral.

"Everybody keeps asking, `Can we do it again?' Of course, we can. It's going to be a close race for everybody - there's a lot of teams that got stronger. But we don't want to do anything less than go out and win another championship."

Wittman is working with a 16-player roster, two fewer than last season. "I like it that way. You suit up 16, and 16 are going to play," he said.

Here's a closer look at what the Blast brings to the 2004-05 season:

Goalkeeper: The team's depth on offense enabled it to trade forward Chris Handsor to Cleveland for Sagu, who provides the necessary experience to replace Hileman while backup Brian Rowland continues to develop. Last season, Sagu was 14-8 with a 4.34 goals-against average with the Sidekicks, who disbanded for this season.

Defenders: Kelly made a fine adjustment last season from midfield to anchor the unit, which must adjust to a new keeper. Billy Nelson, who's in his fourth season, has developed into a hard-nosed marker with ball skills that continue to improve. Schweitzer, 33, who has recently spent his time playing outdoors in the A-League, is a four-time All-Star with the Cleveland Crunch during his previous indoor stint.

Midfielders/forwards: The Blast led the league in goals last season with 241 in 36 regular-season games (25-11). Balance proved the key, with seven players scoring at least 18 goals, led by Cabral's 36. Carlos Farias, who will share the target forward position with captain Tarik Walker, topped the team in points with 22 goals and a team-high 43 assists, and Giuliano Celenza had a breakthrough, 33-goal season. Tschantret and David Bascome (out for tonight's game because of an injured knee) provide a strong veteran presence, and P.J. Wakefield and Allen Eller add versatility.

Blast roster

Player Pos. Ht. Wt.

David Bascome F 5-11 153

Denison Cabral M 5-4 160

Giuliano Celenza F 5-6 155

Adilson De Lima D 6-2 175

Allen Eller M 5-9 160

Chile Farias F 5-6 155

Carlos Garcia M 5-6 176

Neil Gilbert D 6-0 180

Danny Kelly M 5-9 155

Billy Nelson D 5-11 186

Brian Rowland GK 5-11 175

Sagu GK 5-11 175

Scott Schweitzer D 5-11 150

Lee Tschantret F 5-8 160

P.J. Wakefield F 5-10 170

Tarik Walker F 6-2 212

Blast schedule

(All times are p.m.)

Date Opponent Time

Today at San Diego 10:05

Oct. 16 San Diego 7:35

Oct. 29 at St. Louis 8:35

Nov. 5 Philadelphia 7:35

Nov. 6 at Philadelphia 7:05

Nov. 12 Milwaukee 7:35

Nov. 13 Chicago 7:35

Nov. 20 St. Louis 7:35

Dec. 4 at Cleveland 7:05

Dec. 10 Milwaukee 7:35

Dec. 11 at Chicago 8

Dec. 17 at Milwaukee 8:05

Dec. 18 St. Louis 7:35

Dec. 26 Philadelphia 6:05

Jan. 2 at St. Louis 2:05

Jan. 7 Kansas City 7:35

Jan. 8 Monterrey 7:35

Jan. 14 at Monterrey 9:15

Jan. 16 at Cleveland 3:05

Jan. 21 Philadelphia 7:35

Jan. 27 at Kansas City 8:05

Jan. 29 Cleveland 7:35

Feb. 5 San Diego 7:35

Feb. 12 at Philadelphia 7:05

Feb. 18 Monterrey 7:35

Feb. 19 Cleveland 7:35

Feb. 26 at San Diego 10:05

Feb. 27 at Monterrey 6

March 1 Philadelphia 7:05

March 11 at Cleveland 7:35

March 19 at Philadelphia 7:05

March 20 at Cleveland 3:05

March 26 Chicago 7:35

April 1 Cleveland 7:35

April 3 at Philadelphia 1:05

April 9 at Kansas City 8:35

April 15 Kansas City 7:35

April 16 at Chicago 8

April 22 Cleveland 7:35

April 24 at Milwaukee 2:05

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