It’s been an interesting season so far, and an even more interesting week. With the holidays and 2008 rapidly approaching, YOUR Baltimore Blast is 5-5 on the season and taking a short holiday break from the rigors of the game of indoor soccer. After starting the season 5-0, outscoring their opponents, 64-32, and holding other teams to four or fewer goals a game, the team lost its last five and evened out to 5-5. To top it off, our office has been bombarded with angry (but very supportive) letters, calls and emails from fans (as well as some non-fans) who felt it was their duty as a Baltimorean, to tell us that they care about the Blast (and about the game of indoor soccer), despite what a recent sports column would have you believe.
As Danny Kelly put it last week “it’s a marathon, not a sprint” and Kelly speaks from experience, as his 2003 MISL Championship Blast squad was 3-7 after 10 games and 6-12 at the halfway mark of the season. That team finished the regular season 18-18 but went on to beat Cleveland, Philadelphia and Milwaukee to win the Championship. Kelly was a player on that team (as well as on Baltimore’s 2004 and 2006 championship teams) and knows first-hand what it takes to persevere through a demanding MISL season, how to dig deep, fight through injuries and battle his way to the big games.
That said, the holiday break couldn’t have come at a better time as at least seven players are struggling to overcome early-season injuries right now. As a continuation of a string of injury misfortune, Neto, the MVP of the 2006 season, broke a bone in his foot on the first day of training camp but has started training and appears close to making his return. Despite having missed 38 of his team’s last 40 games, Neto looks ready to play and is poised to make an immediate impact on his team’s dismal offensive efforts of late. Naturally, just when Neto is on his way to healthy, the Blast loses second-year forward Matt Watson (quite possibly the fastest player in the MISL) to a toe injury that might cost him the remainder of the season.
Despite the injuries to Neto and Watson (not to mention Celenza, Bascome, Buete, Nelson and Lucio) the Blast (and their 22 fans) look forward to 2008, the remaining 20 regular-season games and the upcoming playoffs. After enjoying the holiday break, the team will return to 1st Mariner on Friday, January 4th to host Tony Meola and the New Jersey Ironmen.
Anyone who hasn’t been to a Blast game before, or who hasn’t been in several years, this is a game you should come to. Just two months shy of his 39th birthday, Meola has returned to the indoor game after playing soccer at every level and solidifying his place in U.S. soccer history. A member of three World Cup teams, Meola has dominated the game at every level, including winning the 1989 Hermann Trophy and Missouri Athletic Club awards (top collegiate player in the country), being named the 2002 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year, earning a spot on the MLS All-Time Best XI list and leading the 1994 World Cup team to the second-round. Now that I’ve worked myself into a frenzy thinking about what Meola has done over the last 20 years, forget what I said about coming to see this game if you haven’t been to a Blast game in a while, you should come to this game even if you’ve seen the Blast play every home game for the last 10 years.
I leave you with these thoughts of Tony Meola and wishes for a very happy holiday season and an even better 2008. Stay tuned for my second blog, in which I’ll prove that there are far more than 22 Blast fans out there.