Cabral makes few concessions to age

Pro Soccer Blast

March 06, 2009|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,Special to The Baltimore Sun

When he came to the United States from Brazil, critics said Denison Cabral would never make it in indoor soccer.

He was too small and would be pushed around, there was a language barrier, he had precious little knowledge of the game and he would be a liability on defense, they maintained.

Blast president-general manager Kevin Healey, who had coached him outdoors with the Baltimore Bays, was not among the naysayers. "I remember telling Ed [Hale, Blast owner] that not only is he going to make it, he's going to be a star for us," Healey said. "Denny has done everything we expected of him and more. He's a role model on and off the field."

As the team readies for its most attractive home weekend of the season, Cabral, 5 feet 4, has become the only Blast player to exceed 900 points while playing exclusively for Baltimore, has conquered English and has demonstrated an uncanny ability to adapt to the fast-paced indoor style. And no one on the roster is more popular with the Blast faithful.

"What it means is I'm getting old," Cabral, 35, said of the milestone he reached Sunday in Mexico. "It's part of my job [scoring]. I'm fortunate to have played for a really consistent organization with teammates who really made my job much easier."

A five-time All-Star who became an American citizen in 2007, Cabral is an integral member of the offense and "very dangerous in set pieces and shootouts and one of the guys we go to on free kicks," coach Danny Kelly said.

Two knee operations forced Cabral to tone down his goal-scoring celebrations from back flips to climbing the side boards and saluting the crowd. That's about his only concession to added years.

"I've always been the smallest one on the field. A lot of people thought I wasn't going to be able to do this, so I had to show them I was able," he said.

Conquering a new language was difficult at first, especially because many tried to communicate with him in Spanish, rather than Portuguese, Brazil's native tongue. He also wasn't enamored of the brutal winter of 1996 while playing with the Washington Warthogs.

"After six months I left. I thought it was too much of a challenge," he said. "And I couldn't deal with the cold."

He got over the doubts and joined the Blast the next year despite his initial thought that indoor soccer "was one of those fake sports, really not real," after watching it on television when he first arrived in this country. "Now, I can't get enough. I still enjoy it a lot, even practice. I'll keep going until it stops being fun."

BLAST TONIGHT

Matchup: Monterrey La RaZa (7-6) at Blast (11-2)

Time: 7:35

Site: 1st Mariner Arena

Radio: 680 AM

Outlook: This is a huge home weekend for the Blast, which can clinch first place and the home arena for the National Indoor Soccer League title game by winning tonight and against the Philadelphia KiXX tomorrow. The Blast and La RaZa played Sunday in Mexico, with the Blast prevailing in an 18-16 overtime thriller. Monterrey is 0-2 vs. the Blast but has been very competitive. Machel Millwood leads the Blast with 39 points, and Carlos Garcia has 30. Denison Cabral has 901 career points - the only Blast player to exceed 900 while playing only for Baltimore.

Kent Baker

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