Blast Leading Division Despite Inconsistent Play
By Krystina Lucido
The Blast's home losing streak officially came to an end and the team's season record was looking the part.
Baltimore's indoor soccer team capped a two-day homestand at the midway point of the season with two wins, placing them first in the Eastern Division. But just four days later, the Blast lost to the Norfolk SharX, their first loss on the road, which just goes to show: as soon as fans think they know this Blast team, it gives them something else to look at.
After Syracuse took them down twice at home, including an embarrassing home-opening 18-7 loss, the Blast rebounded with an impressive 21-6 win against the Knights Jan. 6, scoring 15 of their points during the first half and only allowing the Knights two. The next night, the Baltimore beat the Rochester Lancers, 8-5, scoring half their points during the first half.
Forward Adauto Neto was a key player during both games and has been a main focal point of the offense all season. His production, according to coach Danny Kelly, is paramount in leading this team to a championship.
"His skill with the ball is second-to-none," Kelly said. "He can finish. He can distribute. He's working hard defensively, and when he's doing those things, he's tough to handle. He's one of the top players in the game."
As of Jan. 13, Neto had recorded 36 points -- 11 goals and 13 assists. He was second on the team in scoring behind Machel Millwood, who had 12 goals, three of which were three-point goals, plus 10 assists, for 37 points. Max Ferdinand was not far behind with 35 points, including one hat trick.
Before the Jan. 6-7 slate of games, the Blast traveled to Milwaukee and handed the Wave their first loss of the season -- and their first loss since grabbing the 2011 MISL championship out from under the Blast at 1st Mariner Arena. Baltimore held the Wave scoreless for three quarters during the Dec. 31 game.
Baltimore's performance has improved as the season has progressed. With a semi-unexpected start to the season with three home losses, the Blast were struggling on both ends of the ball, but most importantly, with team defense. Kelly said his team had improved in that area and he was confident heading into the second half of the season that the players would not sit on their laurels. They know there is always room for improvement, Kelly said.
"We know we have the capabilities of being a good team, but we also know we're still a work in progress," Kelly said. "We're still working on things. We can still get better at things. We're a confident team, but by no means are we overconfident."
During their Jan. 12 loss against a team that began the season 0-9, the Blast looked as sloppy as they did during their opening game, and seemed out of sync yet again.
Despite losing to the SharX, Baltimore was still in first in the Eastern Division. The rest of the teams in the division, including second-place Syracuse, have a losing record. The Blast are 3-3 at home and 7-1 on the road, which had been key in keeping them in the game until Norfolk.
Despite the rocky start and the recent drubbing, Kelly said he felt the team was in a good place moving forward.
"You can't dwell on the past," Kelly said. "I'd like a couple quarters back against some of these teams, but we're learning from those mistakes. We realize you can't switch off and when you do, you can get punished and it's cost us games. … We're a work in progress. I like the way we are right now, but I know we still have room to improvement."
Issue 169: January 2012