A familiar face will be on the field tonight at 1st Mariner Arena, and this time, he won't be wearing a Blast uniform.
Lee Tschantret, a member of three Blast championship teams, returns as a member of the Philadelphia KiXX to continue a pro soccer odyssey that has lasted 18 years and more than 1,000 points.
Tschantret, 39, reached the scoring milestone as a Blast player during the 2006-07 season, then "retired" to coach the sport and teach physical education at Loyola High, his primary workout site for staying in shape for the professional season.
"I talked about it [returning] with [KiXX player-coach] Don D'Ambra, for last season, but the Blast still had my rights, and it didn't work out," said Tschantret, who has played for franchises in Kansas City, St. Louis, New York and Detroit. "When everybody became a free agent [after the Major Indoor Soccer League disbanded], it changed."
D'Ambra, a longtime acquaintance and some-time teammate, allows Tschantret to train on his own, a luxury he could not enjoy had he wanted to return to the Blast. His coaching and teaching schedule at Loyola conflicts with the Blast's training times.
Blast coach Danny Kelly "wants players who are going to be there all the time," Tschantret said, "and with my schedule that wasn't possible. Don trusts me to keep in shape, and I try to make it to Philadelphia to work out when I can."
Tschantret will be running normal shifts for the KiXX and playing on the back line, where he was a personal favorite of Blast goalkeeper Sagu because of his savvy and hustle during his final season in Baltimore.
He still keeps in touch with his old teammates. In fact, Blast defender Mike Lookingland serves as his junior varsity coach at Loyola, and several others are in a fantasy football league with him.
What kind of reception does he expect at the arena?
"Well, I haven't thought about it much, but I hope it's OK," he said. "I always had a nice feeling here."
Matchup: Philadelphia KiXX (2-1)
at Blast (3-0)
Site: 1st Mariner Arena
Radio: 680 AM
Outlook: The Blast has gone unbeaten against two first-year teams, but now matters turn serious against second-place Philadelphia. These two won six of the preceding seven titles in the old Major Indoor Soccer League. The KiXX are coming off their first loss and feature a familiar cast headed by player-coach Don D'Ambra and goalkeeper Peter Pappas. Players from other MISL teams, including leading scorer Hewerton Moreira (22 points), have further fortified Philadelphia. The Blast's Denison Cabral is expected back after he missed last week's rout of the Massachusetts Twisters with the flu.