Pro Soccer

Blast's reign driven by `D'

`It starts with defense,' Kelly says after team's 4th title in 6 seasons

April 28, 2008|By Todd Karpovich | Todd Karpovich,Special to The Sun

In the second half of the Major Indoor Soccer League championship game, the Monterrey La Raza's forwards began to get frustrated about having to play against all five of the Blast's field players on each attack.

The philosophy of having every player defend was the key to the Blast's 14-11 victory Saturday night and has also been the driving force behind the franchise's four titles in the past six seasons.

The Blast's success could prompt other franchises in the league to follow its model, but coach Danny Kelly was not concerned about the opposition adopting that strategy.

"All I know is what we have here and how we win championships," Kelly said. "It starts with defense. You hear that mantra that defense wins championships, and that is the truth.

"Through your defense, you create turnovers and you create opportunities going the other way. We have been lucky here in Baltimore with the personnel we have had over the years with veteran leadership and rookies who have blended in real well."

The Blast, which gave up the fewest points during the regular season and was No. 1 in penalty killing, returned from Milwaukee yesterday, and Kelly said the organization is ready to take time off before developing a personnel plan to defend the crown.

One of the players who wants to return next season is Denison Cabral, the Blast's all-time leader in points who was named Most Valuable Player in the championship game. At age 34, Cabral is not considering retirement anytime soon.

"As long I am having fun, I want to continue to do it," said Cabral, who tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee late in December 2005. "Hopefully that will match up with Coach wanting me to be on the team. It's a great honor to be playing for the Blast. I don't take for granted that I play for the No. 1 organization in the MISL."

Cabral has played under several coaches in his 11 seasons with the team. One of the ways the franchise has separated itself from others is that the team's former players, such as Bobby McAvan, Tim Wittman and now Kelly, have coached for the Blast.

They understand what it takes to play for the organization and how to win titles, Cabral said.

"They are used to the passion and the pressure," he said. "Every year, the team is the same in that we just want to win a championship. For a long time, the Blast is going to be able to carry on that tradition. We are going to have on the field someone who won a championship, whether it be a coach or a player."

Mike Lookingland, a Loyola High graduate, said the mix of players on this year's team has an opportunity to make another run next year and possibly several seasons afterward. He said the team got stronger as the season evolved and was the best team by the time the playoffs began.

"With no expansion draft coming up and if nothing crazy happens, I think we are the team to beat," Lookingland said. "When you come here as a player, you want to win championships. Not winning a championship is unacceptable."

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