Nearing career numbers, Aristodemo unimpressed

Blast notebook

Pro Soccer

March 03, 2006|By JEFF SEIDEL | JEFF SEIDEL,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Barring injury, Blast midfielder Robbie Aristodemo is expected to easily record career highs for goals and assists this season. He has nearly already done it, though the Blast still has nine games remaining.

But statistics don't move him much. Aristodemo said his main goal is simply to play hard every game, something he'll do again tonight when the Blast takes on the Philadelphia KiXX at 1st Mariner Arena at 7:35.

Aristodemo has 11 goals and 10 assists in 19 games. His career high in goals is 13, and his best in the assists category is 11, but he has developed into a more dangerous offensive player since coming to the Blast in the second round of last year's dispersal draft from Cleveland.

"It's my best year with numbers, [but] that's a problem I have sometimes with numbers," Aristodemo said. "I try to pride myself on being consistent game in and game out."

He also focuses on playing tough defense -- not letting his man score yet staying out of the penalty box. He has been able to do more offensively this season than last, although Cleveland made it to the championship round with a strong attack.

Blast coach Tim Wittman said Aristodemo has been a very good acquisition who has helped at both ends.

"He knows how to play soccer," Wittman said. "He's a true midfielder, and he's going to contribute."

Aristodemo has worked with such players as Adauto Neto, Giuliano Celenza and Joel Bailey this season and said they complement each other well. He's hoping all of them keep up the momentum through the playoffs.

Extra incentive

The Blast could lock up a playoff appearance with a sweep of this weekend's home-and-home series with Philadelphia.

The team's magic number is two, and a playoff spot would mean its 11th playoff appearance in 14 years. The Blast is trying to bounce back after missing the postseason last year after two straight Major Indoor Soccer League championships.

Wittman said he's most concerned about helping his team peak at the right time. The Blast (14-7) is tied for second with Milwaukee after winning six of its past eight games, but the schedule certainly is in its favor.

Seven of its final nine games are against Philadelphia, Chicago and California -- teams with a combined 18-44 record.

"We're in good shape," Wittman said. "Now, we've got some people back. Now, we just have to keep on getting better and better and better."

The Blast's main problem is that it will have to keep up the pace on the road. After tonight, the team plays five of its final eight games away. It will play three straight road games after tonight's game, and won't play at home again until March 24.

The Blast and Milwaukee are 2 1/2 games behind St. Louis (16-4), which also has a game in hand, so passing the Steamers for first place will be tough. But finishing second could be important because it would mean Game 2 of the playoffs' first round would be at home.

Et cetera

Neto was named the league's Offensive Player of the Month earlier this week. He had a league-best 12 points in February -- after winning the same honor in November. He scored a goal in last weekend's 5-3 win in California. ... The Blast leads the league with 141 goals scored. In addition, the team is first in fourth-quarter goals (40) and tops on the power play and in penalty killing.

Blast tonight

Matchup -- Philadelphia (5-14) at Blast (14-7)

Time -- 7:35

Radio -- 680 AM

Outlook -- This will be the first of four meetings between the Blast and the KiXX over the season's final nine games. The teams will also play tomorrow night in Philadelphia. The Blast's Adauto Neto was named the MISL's Offensive Player of the Month for February (12 points), and Machel Millwood gave the offense a spark with two goals in last weekend's win in California. Goalie Sagu held the Cougars scoreless for the first 35:23 to help the Blast move into a second-place tie with Milwaukee. Philadelphia helped the Blast tie the Wave with a 7-6 upset of Milwaukee last Saturday. Pat Morris scored four goals as the KiXX rallied from a 6-2 halftime deficit to shock the Wave.

Jeff Seidel

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