Kelly evolves into new role

Coaching job ends playing career for Blast

Pro soccer

May 18, 2006|By JEFF SEIDEL | JEFF SEIDEL,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Danny Kelly is counting on coaching to help him adjust to the end of a long playing career.

Kelly, 37, agreed yesterday to retire after a 14-year career and take over as the Blast's head coach. Kelly served as player-interim coach for the final six weeks of the 2005-06 season, which ended with the Blast winning its third Major Indoor Soccer League championship in four seasons.

Team officials were expected to offer Kelly the job after the Blast knocked off the second-seeded Milwaukee Wave in the first round of the playoffs before beating top-seeded St. Louis in the finals. Kelly took over after former coach Tim Wittman was suspended after a post-game incident in a March 18 loss in California.

"I feel very fortunate that they asked me to be the coach in Baltimore, the place that I played and [where I] helped this team win the championship three times in the last four years," Kelly said. "It feels good."

But losing Kelly from the playing roster will hurt. He's been one of the MISL's top defenders in recent seasons. Kelly played with the team for eight years and led Blast defenders with four goals and 18 assists this past season.

Kelly also made his third All-Star Game appearance this year and finished his career ranked 20th on the MISL's all-time scoring list with 857 points.

But Kelly said the physical nature of the game has worn him down, and he realized that this probably was the right time for a career change.

"I still love the game and still love to play," Kelly said. "But as an athlete sometimes you just know when it's time. It's taken its toll on me physically, and I ... think that it's time for me to stop playing."

Kelly had a 2-3 regular-season record this season, but the Blast held several players out of the last two games because of injuries. The Blast then went 4-2 in the playoffs, and Kelly said that brief experience proved helpful.

This will be Kelly's first full-time coaching position. Blast general manager Kevin Healey said he's confident Kelly will make a smooth transition from player to coach.

"I think that anybody who stops playing will miss it a little while," Healey said. "I think it's natural. But it's certainly easier if you're the coach, and you're still involved in the action of the game."

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