Millwood Makes His Mark
By Staci Wolfson
For Blast star forward Machel Millwood, life wasn’t always all about soccer.
When he and his family left Jamaica and moved to Maryland, he was prepared to forget about soccer, a sport that was less popular in the United States. After all, it was just something he did to fill spare time.
“It was kind of hard, but coming here, my mindset was not really on soccer anymore,” Millwood said. “Once I left, I was looking toward different things. It just so happened that I got an opportunity to play, and that just made it a whole lot better.”
With 15 goals and a team-leading 17 assists, Machel Millwood is tied for first on the Blast with 47 points.
After he moved to Maryland, others saw talent and ability in Millwood that he did not immediately see in himself. He dominated the high school game, playing for Parkdale High School, and after two years at Prince George’s Community College, a number of big-time college programs were going after him.
Opting to stay close to his family, Millwood accepted a scholarship to Towson University, where he played for coach Frank Olszewski.
“I just thought Frank was a great guy, talking to him over the phone,” Millwood said. “He actually just came to see a club game, and that helped me make my decision. That one club game he came to, it was pouring, and he stood out in the rain the whole time and watched the game. … He just reassured me that, ‘Once you come to our school, I’ll guarantee that you will graduate, I’ll guarantee that you will enjoy your soccer experience.’”
Millwood excelled at Towson, earning an All-American honorable mention and making the Colonial Athletic Association All-Conference first team in 2002. He graduated with a degree in business and economics, something he said he plans on putting to use after his soccer career is finished.
Following college, Millwood continued to play outdoor soccer, joining the United Soccer League’s Syracuse Salty Dogs. But when he was drafted by the Major Indoor Soccer League’s now-defunct San Diego Sockers, Millwood declined. He had little interest in playing the indoor game.
“What changed my mind was [Blast general manager] Kevin Healey,” Millwood said. “He called me, and he said it was a great opportunity for me; he told me this would be like home. … If I decide to play outdoor, it's an opportunity to stay home during the offseason if I didn't want to either get a full-time job or do something else. It's an opportunity to play and enjoy while I was still young, and I think that kind of helped make my decision.
“When I came out and saw the sport at first, I was still like, ‘No, I still don't want to play.’ But after a couple sessions, just playing around, it wasn’t that much of a difference, it was still the game of soccer.”
Although he had a quick start during the 2004-05 season, Millwood remained reluctant to sign a long-term contract. He opted instead to sign two 15-day contracts before deciding if he wanted to stick with the Blast.
“The indoor game is totally different, but I don’t think he realized the tools he had, and everybody else did,” said player/assistant coach David Bascome. “That was the whole thing because everybody else was like, ‘Man, this guy could do well at indoor.’ And it was the same thing when I came in. Reluctant to play, wasn't sure, getting injured, thinking, ‘I just need more space.’ But I'm glad he stayed with it.”
And so is the rest of the organization. Millwood brought a professional attitude with him to the Blast and developed a love for the indoor game. He was a key to the Blast’s success in his second season in 2005-06, scoring the game-winning goal against the St. Louis Steamers in the Championship Series and earning a Most Valuable Player nod. He also scored the game-winning goal against Milwaukee, helping his team advance to the finals.
Coach Danny Kelly said he is hoping for a repeat performance.
“Expectations for him? To be able to lead this team into the playoffs,” Kelly said. “I expect that from him, I expect that from a lot of these guys, to lead this team into the playoffs. Not only by saying the right things, but by leading the team on the field, by example, whether it's in training or during games, leading the team, doing the things that need to get done. … He’s doing a good job of that, and we need to continue to do that.”
Millwood is currently tied with fellow forward Denison Cabral for the team lead with 47 points. He recorded four goals against the Orlando Sharks two weeks ago and last week scored a power play goal in Orlando off an assist from Cabral.
Despite his success, Millwood said playing both the indoor and outdoor seasons creates a grueling schedule, and he thinks he will conclude his soccer career in a few years.
“Don’t even pay him any mind, he’ll keep playing,” Bascome said. “I'm 38 now, he's 28; he will be playing for 10 more years, I can guarantee. He can say whatever he wants. When you have a love for this game, when you see players who love to play, it's not easy to stop.”
The Blast will celebrate the fifth class to be inducted into the Baltimore Blast Hall of Fame Saturday night. Former players Keith Van Eron and Dominic Mobilio will be honored at halftime, joining Blast legends Kenny Cooper, Stan Stamenkovic, Mike Stankovic, Tim Wittman and many others in the Hall of Fame.
Saturday, Feb. 9: Blast 12, Orlando Sharks 4
Stars of the Game
Machel Millwood scored a power play goal off an assist from Denison Cabral. He also contributed his team-leading 17th assist of the season.
Mike Lookingland got the second half started with a goal off a pass from Lucio Gonzaga. He also provided an assist for David Bascome.
Sagu led a stingy Blast defense, allowing only two Orlando goals. He leads the league, allowing only 8.22 goals per game.
Stat of the Game: The Blast defense, which allowed seven fourth-quarter points Feb. 2, did not allow a goal in the final 30:08 of the game.
Baltimore (12-7) visits the second-place Milwaukee Wave (14-7) Friday night and hosts the New Jersey Ironmen (10-9) Saturday. The Blast have defeated the Wave twice this season, and Milwaukee is coming off a loss to Philadelphia. The Ironmen had a week off and are 1-1 against the Blast.
Issue 3.7: February 14, 2008