When you get right down to it, Blast defender Wendell Regis is a paradox.
The veteran indoor soccer player from Trinidad has overcome a knee injury that would have ended the careers of many. He did it with hard work and dedication.
Yet, he said, now that he has overcome that challenge - so well that he was named to the Major Indoor Soccer League All-Star Game - he is "getting by" doing less than he could.
"I know I get paid to do a job," Regis said. "And when I'm on the field during the game, I always give 100 percent. But I could be better. I'm not inspired to work as hard as I could to get better at my position."
Regis loves soccer, but he does not love being a defender.
"When he came to our team in Harrisburg, he was a midfielder," said Regis' teammate, David Bascome. "But we had a lot of talented, veteran midfield players, and he had to play defense.
"He'll laugh and tell you we pushed him on to defense. We still tease him, call him the 'Backyard Kicks.' It's Caribbean talk that means just going behind the house and kicking the ball around with your friends."
Regis, a quiet, good-natured man, can laugh at the joke, but underneath, there is frustration. Being forced to play defender probably has much to do with his still being in the game, and though he appreciates that, he wants to be a goal-scoring midfielder and ruefully deals with the consequences of knee surgery.
During a February game in the 1999-2000 season, while he was playing for Harrisburg against the Blast, Baltimore's Ronnie Simmons lost his balance and fell into Regis' right knee. Regis suffered complete tears of all three major ligaments - anterior, posterior and medial - and had to have his knee capsule completely rebuilt.
As he sat in the stands one recent day after practice at Du Burns Arena, he rolled up his pants leg and revealed an angry-looking, eight-inch scar on the inside of his knee and several other discolorations where screws have been inserted and removed around his kneecap.
Doctors weren't sure he could come back from the injury, but Regis worked overtime on his rehabilitation, defied the odds and, by the next December, was playing again.
"And until a little earlier this season, I'd been pain-free," he said.
Shortly after the season began, he started to feel a little knee pain, and three weeks ago, he got a cortisone shot.
"The doctor believes there might be a slight deterioration in the area of the screws," he said. "I'm not worried."
After all that, you'd think Regis would make the most of every opportunity. But while his roommate, Allen Eller, said he works hard and even runs on his own, Regis insisted he is not doing all he could.
"Playing in the back is not my dream," said Regis, who leads the team in blocked shots. "It's OK on this team, because there are so many guys who can really play, but I know I can do a whole lot more if I was performing at my optimum. If I had come into the league and been given a decent opportunity to perform, I'd definitely have put in the work.
"I know I have to improve my attitude. I know if a player works hard, he'll be given a bigger role. And I'm working on it. I'm not seeing a quick result, but I'm working on it."
It doesn't help his motivation that his playing time has been shortened this season, first by being moved into a three-man rotation and then when he was taken off the penalty-killing unit when his knee began to hurt.
But despite Regis' self-judged lack of extra effort, coach Tim Wittman has only good things to say about him.
"When he tried out for us, we saw something we liked," Wittman said. "He's a defender who can go forward. But his first job is defense, and Wendell is a good defender; one of the better ones in the league. But sometimes he talks in circles. I see his potential. And already he is more than I expected."
Matchup: Blast (18-7) vs. San Diego Sockers (10-13)
Site: San Diego Sports Arena
Radio: WCBM (680 AM)
Outlook: While the Eastern Division- leading Blast (18-7) keeps winning on the road and at home, San Diego (10-13) limped home after two more road setbacks last weekend. The Sockers have lost five straight on the road, and they couldn't change their luck last weekend with the addition of original MISL Sockers standout Paul Dougherty to the lineup. Dougherty, a midfielder, won four Major Indoor Soccer League championship rings with the once-powerful Sockers and also played briefly for the original Blast. Former Blast standout Paul Wright leads San Diego in scoring with 11 goals and 17 assists for 28 points. The Blast, which had its division lead over Philadelphia cut to 1 1/2 games last Saturday night with a 9-3 road loss to the KiXX, is led in scoring by forward Carlos Farias (13 goals, 33 assists for 46 points), while midfielder Denison Cabral is first in goals (22) and second in points (35). Former Archbishop Curley and UMBC standout Giuliano Celenza is second in goals (20) and has 27 points. After tonight's game on the West Coast, the Blast has a home-and-home series against the Cleveland Force next weekend. The Blast will meet the Force at 1st Mariner Arena next Saturday night, and will then travel to Cleveland for a 3:05 p.m. game the next day.
- Bill Free