Blast forward Rod Dyachenko, left, spars with Robbie Aristodemo… (Baltimore Sun photo by Jed…)
Aside from a brief announcement from the coach just beforehand, Wednesday's practice for Blast midfielder Robbie Aristodemo was no different from the others.
The 32-year-old veteran was one of the first players to arrive and the last to leave, and in between the coming and going he was his usual persistent self.
Aristodemo battled in the corners during a scrimmage, showed a little displeasure when a drill wasn't executed properly and made time to give positive words of instruction to one of the team's younger players.
As for the announcement from coach Danny Kelly, it was to officially appoint Aristodemo the Blast's new captain as the team makes final preparations for tonight's home opener against the Rockford Rampage. Game time is set for 7:35 at 1st Mariner Arena.
"It's a great honor because the Blast has been around for so long, the tradition is just phenomenal and you look at all the banners we've won," said Aristodemo, who is in his fifth season with the team. "The amount of great players that have played in this arena is endless, so it will be a special thing to lead the team out."
The Blast - winners of five indoor titles in seven years, including three during Aristodemo's tenure - had a number of other qualified candidates to replace former captain P.J. Wakefield, but Aristodemo was the obvious choice.
Along with his work that sets the tone in practice, he's on the field during games for power plays, for penalty kills and as the sixth attacker. In his four seasons with the Blast, he has recorded 138 points while doing all the little things that get overlooked on the score sheet.
"Robbie is involved in every aspect of what we do as far as running things on the field, so he's involved in every critical situation. He's a very smart player who knows what it takes to win. I just think he brings the complete package as far as being a leader," Kelly said.
Aristodemo doesn't see the need to change his game now that he's wearing the captain's armband, but he is aware of the added responsibility that comes with it. With seven professional indoor seasons under his belt - he played two years in San Diego and one in Cleveland before coming here - he feels prepared for the task at hand.
"I think there's obviously a little more pressure on me as far as wins and losses and our performance on the field," he said. "There's also little subtle things. I feel I've got a good rapport with pretty much all the players on the team, so if someone is not carrying their weight I have to be the bad guy and say, 'Pick it up and get the job done.' "
Although Kelly says his new captain will have to become a bit more vocal, the respect Aristodemo has earned by his actions over the past four years speaks volumes.
"What I like about Robbie is that he leads by his play," Kelly said. "He doesn't have to say much, it's more following his lead. He's not afraid to get dirty, and he'll do whatever it takes to help the team and give us the best opportunity to win. He's done that night in and night out and just has to continue doing what he does."
The Blast has an ideal mix of skilled veteran players and developing young players as it looks to capture an additional championship in the newly renamed Major Indoor Soccer League (the team won last year's championship when the league was called the National Indoor Soccer League). It's also an ideal mix for Aristodemo. He has experienced players to lean on and thrives on building up the younger players.
"He's got so many years of experience and is such a complete two-way player, I just try to pick his brain every day: What is he thinking? What would he do in this situation?" second-year midfielder Pat Healey (Calvert Hall, Towson University) said. "He leads by example, and he's also somebody you know you can always go to. With all the different things he does, he's our everything."