Newcomers Give Blast Fresh Look, New Hope
By Staci Wolfson
The Baltimore Blast started the 2007-08 season off on the right foot with a big boost from a new face.
Michael Todd, the team’s first-round pick in this year’s amateur draft, gave the Blast their first goal and their last in Friday night’s 8-2 victory over the defending MISL champion Philadelphia KiXX.
Player of the Week Michael Todd made his MISL debut a memorable one with two goals in the Baltimore Blast's 8-2 win over the Philadelphia KiXX.
“I didn’t expect that start,” Todd said. “I think I was a bit fortunate. I was in the right place at the right time. It was a bit of a shock in the first 10 minutes. The pace of the game was rapid. After that, it got settled down a little bit.”
Todd, a native of Cleveland, England, and a forward out of Hofstra University, is one of five new members who made it to the Blast’s final roster. Joining him are goalkeeper David Kern, midfielders Brian Devlin and Scott Buete and defenders Ryan Pierce and Marko Bedenikovic.
The losses of Brian Rowland, Gordon Chin and Jonathan Steele, picked up by other teams in the MISL expansion draft, along with the absence of veteran Lee Tschantret, now coaching soccer at Loyola Blakefield, opened up spaces on the roster.
For a team that finished fifth in a league of six last year, the new players could be a much-needed breath of fresh air.
“We had a number of young guys seeing significant time tonight, and I thought they handled themselves very well,” coach Danny Kelly said. “Michael Todd, Ryan Pierce in the back, Scott Buete midfield, all playing for the first time, and I thought they handled themselves really well, along with the core group of the team. I thought everybody played well tonight.”
Before a crowd of 10,115, Todd headed his first goal in the first quarter on a pass from defender Mike Looklingland, the only Blast goal in the first half. The score tied the game at 2. With 10 minutes and 55 seconds left in the fourth quarter, Todd scored the final goal of the game off a Robbie Aristodemo assist.
Assistant coach David Bascome and forward Rey Martinez each contributed a goal between Todd’s two. In addition to the rookie’s pair of goals, Kelly said the team benefited from a healthier veteran core than the one that finished out last season.
“This year, just having guys like Giuliano Celenza and Machel Millwood, Denison Cabral, those guys on the field, the defense has to honor them and pay extra attention to them,” he said. “And that opens it up for the other guys. Michael Todd scored two goals tonight, and I thought played very well. Those players open up the game for some of our other players.”
During his time at Hofstra, Todd helped the Pride win three consecutive Colonial Athletic Association championships and make three NCAA Tournament appearances. In 2006, he was named CAA Player of the Year after recording 10 goals and three assists for 26 points.
Even if Todd wasn’t expecting such quick success in his MISL debut, veteran goalkeeper Sagu said he is someone fans should keep an eye on.
“I think he did very good in practice, and he’s a strong player,” he said. “I like him because he’s a simple player. … I think he’s going to be a good player in this league and a good surprise this year.”
And perhaps with the help of Todd and the other new members of the team, the Blast can be a surprise as well and turn last year’s fifth-place finish into a playoff appearance. “We worked really hard in the preseason,” Todd said. “It’s still early, but hopefully it’s an indication of where we’re headed.”
Issue 2.43: October 25, 2007