Facing Cougars, injury-marred Blast looks to end 4-game skid

Pro Soccer

January 11, 2007|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,Sun reporter

Entering the season, the Blast knew it would have to play the first several months without Adauto Neto, the reigning Most Valuable Player in the Major Indoor Soccer League who was recovering from surgery to repair a fracture in his left tibia.

What the team didn't know was that on one miserable first weekend in December it also would lose to injury player-coach David Bascome, the No. 12 all-time scorer in the league; Giuliano Celenza, its leading point maker at the time and a reigning All-MISL choice; and P.J. Wakefield, the team captain and fulcrum of the defense.

That siege left the infirmary almost as crowded as the bench, but the schedule wasn't about to stop, so the Blast played on ... and starting taking its lumps.

When the team visits the California Cougars in Stockton tonight, it will be seeking to end a four-game losing streak that has it flirting with the bottom of the league standings. But there is also reassurance that most of the veterans will begin trickling to the active roster soon, lending greater hope for the second half of the season.

Although coach Danny Kelly maintains that the team can win with the remaining players - a mixture of savvy veterans such as Denison Cabral and Lee Tschantret and promising youngsters such as Matt Watson and Jonathan Steele - there is no doubt that having the wounded back in the rotation would make it a more imposing force.

"You can't count the days until your guys come back," said Kelly. "You have to compensate for injuries. They're part of the game and you don't want to focus on them. But getting P.J. and [Celenza] back would be important. Both are All-Stars. Would that mean winning more games? I don't know."

Bascome, who has a torn anterior cruciate ligament, will not return until the playoffs, if then. Neto was supposed to return this month, but that projected date has been stretched into February.

"It's not completely healed yet and you don't want to come back too soon," said Neto, who is running in short bursts "but not at long distance. It's frustrating, but you have to stay mentally strong and keep working on different things, so you're not completely out of shape when you do return."

Neto played through what was believed to be shin splints en route to the MISL title last season, then a break was discovered.

Celenza, one of the Blast's most potent offensive players, was given a cortisone shot last week for a strained groin and is hoping to play Jan. 19 against the Milwaukee Wave.

"It's real tough," he said. "No one wants to sit out, just come here [to practice] and rehab."

Wakefield absorbed a kick in the foot and suffered ligament damage and a bone bruise. He is also shooting for the Jan. 19 game that starts a five-game homestand.

"It's hard to just sit in the stands and watch," he said. "You don't feel like part of the team. It's tough to win when the whole team is together [and] losing a bunch of guys makes it even harder. You're thinking, `If I'm in there, I could help us win.' "

Those three players will be at home listening on the radio tonight and itching to get back into the lineup. Meantime, the Blast's youth is getting many more in-game opportunities than normal.

"Those young guys now have a feel of how to play," Wakefield said. "They're getting time and that's an upside."

Kelly said the current group has to "stop beating ourselves. The last two games we've lost because of what we haven't done. We're in a bit of a rut, but we'll get out of it by doing all the little things right."


Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.