Blast's backup goalie builds skills, confidence

Josh Campbell barely had time to settle into his first job out of college, backup goalkeeper for his hometown Blast, when duty called unexpectedly.

One minute, he was taking it all in from the bench - opening night, biggest crowd of the season, back-and-forth game against the visiting Kansas City Attack. The next, he was pulling on his gloves, getting brief but clear instructions from coach Kevin Healey to just keep it simple.


"It was unique," Healey said, "because there was a lot of excitement going on, a lot of things happening, and just before I turned to him and said, 'Josh, this is the National Professional Soccer League. What do you think?' He smiled and said, 'I like it.' And then, not a minute later, he was in the goal."

With starter Scott Hileman serving a five-minute misconduct at the start of the fourth quarter, Campbell was able to hold serve, keeping the game close to enable the Blast (15-6) to go on for a thrilling, 21-20 win.


How appropriate.

At 13, Campbell went to a soccer camp as a defender and left as a keeper- impressively filling in there, too.

He left his youth club team when it didn't need a goalkeeper and went on to try out for and make the Olympic Development Program's under-13 team. From there, it was Patapsco High, followed by an All-Atlantic Coast Conference career at Clemson.

Now, at 22, Campbell - 6 feet 4, 190 pounds, quick and more and more confident - is back home as the Blast's top draft pick in last year's draft, adjusting to the indoor game and making the most of his chances.

"It's awesome," he said. "I went to Blast games when I was a little kid - played at many halftimes. It's definitely a treat to come back to Baltimore and play in front of the home crowd."

Campbell's next chance comes tonight in Buffalo, where he'll make his second career start. His first start was there, too, specifically targeted because of the big arena, and he responded with a sturdy, much-needed performance that resulted in a 15-6 win to end the Blast's only two-game losing streak of the season on Jan. 21.

"I just wanted to put him in a situation that gave him the best chance to be successful. Confidence is such an important factor for an athlete, and we felt like that arena at that time was the best chance for him to be successful," said Healey.

Campbell finished with 14 saves - two big ones early - to allow the Blast to take the lead and win going away.


"To come out right away and make a few big saves early helps with the confidence level, and to come out of the game with a big win, having a great effort all together, helps a lot," said Campbell.

He said that first win was a big step in his progression as he adjusts to the indoor game.

"You have to be a little crazy, a little fearless," Campbell said, to be a goalkeeper. The indoor aspect adds more insanity.

"It's definitely a big adjustment. The indoor game is a lot faster. It's a lot closer to you than outdoor. There's a lot less room, and you've got the walls to worry about," said Campbell. "Shots are a lot closer, and it seems they come a lot harder and a lot quicker. So you can't be scared. You have to stand in there and take it - stay as big as you can and play the angles."

Hileman, an All-Star this season and mentor to Campbell, tells how far Campbell has come: "I remember the first day of training, someone hit a ball that was about 5 yards wide, and Josh dove for it, which in indoor is a no-no, because you're going to get it coming right back at you.

"But he's phenomenal right now. He's adapted to the game very well, and you can attribute that most of all to his work ethic. He's always the first one to practice and always working hard on his game."