Aristodemo is middle man you can't cut out

Pro soccer

January 19, 2007|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,Sun reporter

Relaxation doesn't come easily to Robbie Aristodemo these days.

As a first-time father - his daughter, Zallie, was born less than four months ago - he has taken on more family responsibility at home. "That's one reason why I get tired," he said.

Certainly, there is little time for leisure in his job as the principal Blast midfielder, a position that demands boundless energy and commitment. It means run, run and run some more. Because he is on both power-play units and the midfield ranks have been depleted by injury and a recent suspension, the burden on Aristodemo has been greater than ever lately.

"It's a dirty job, being a midfielder," said Aristodemo, a native of the Toronto area. "Not a lot of people like it. After games, I'm pretty fatigued."

But when the Blast launches a five-game homestand tonight, against the Milwaukee Wave, Aristodemo will be flying all over the field, an integral participant in nearly everything the unit will try to accomplish on offense and defense.

"He's a very, very important part of our team," coach Danny Kelly said. "He can do everything well and works hard on both sides of the ball. He doesn't get noticed because he doesn't score a lot and therefore doesn't get a lot of credit. Midfield is a lot of grunt work and is probably the most demanding position. Robbie is very good at it."

The Blast brass was stunned when the diminutive Aristodemo (5 feet 6, 140 pounds) was still available in the second round of the dispersal draft when the Cleveland franchise folded after the 2004-05 season.

The Force had reached the Major Indoor Soccer League finals before losing in overtime to Milwaukee and had a star-studded roster. The Blast, which had fallen out of the playoffs that season, chose second overall and took Adauto Neto (the league's Most Valuable Player last season) with its first pick. After Aristodemo was passed over on the first seven picks, general manager Kevin Healey pounced.

"I was shocked when Robbie was still around," Healey said. "We were coming off a losing season and we didn't think we could make mistakes in that draft. It took about one second to make up our mind about Robbie. We had the best draft in the league that year."

In addition to Neto and Aristodemo, the Blast acquired goalkeeper Sanaldo and midfielder Jonathan Steele from that pool.

Healey uses the words "intelligent" and "field general" often in describing Aristodemo, who is considered the link for everything that happens when he is on the field.

"I was happy when I came here," he said. "I knew it was a good organization, a great town and a lot of people came to the games."

After playing with two franchises that have ceased operations (San Diego before Cleveland), Aristodemo knew he was with a team that wasn't going anywhere and was immediately rewarded when the Blast won the title last season.

"I don't expect this team to fold," he said. "In fact, the league is going to grow a little [three new teams next season]."

Despite his frenetic activity and slight frame, Aristodemo has been quite durable during his five indoor seasons. He played in 124 consecutive games before missing two with a slight hamstring injury last season. "If it had been the playoffs, I probably would have played," he said.

Now, his goal is to help the team reverse its fortunes after losses in five of the past six games.

"We're probably the only team that has so many key injuries," he said. "But the bottom line is we had to win more on the road, change our mentality on the road, regardless of who we have.

"Now the next five [all at home] look like make or break."

kent.baker@baltsun.com

Tonight's game

Matchup -- Milwaukee Wave (6-8) at Blast (5-7)

Site -- 1st Mariner Arena

Time -- 7:35

Radio -- 680 AM

Series -- Tied 1-1

Outlook -- The Blast begins an important stretch of five consecutive home games that provides a chance to gain in the standings. These teams have each beaten each other in their own arenas and both are coming off defeats last Sunday, the Blast at Philadelphia and Milwaukee in overtime against Detroit. Midfielder Jonathan Steele will return from disciplinary action to play for the Blast and several of the team's injured players also might come back. The first 2,000 children 13 and younger will receive a Machel Millwood jersey.

Kent Baker

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