When Monterrey La Raza visits 1st Mariner Arena tonight for the biggest game of the Blast's season so far, it will encounter a team that is scoring at a much greater rate than last season's Major Indoor Soccer League championship squad.
This is happening despite the loss of two key members of the title-winning team: Adauto Neto, a former MISL Most Valuable Player, and Lucio Gonzaga, an emerging star from Brazil who was the only Blast player to score a goal in five straight postseason games. Both left for more money with the New Jersey Ironmen.
Even without them, the Blast is averaging 16.9 points while winning six of its first seven, a significant rise from the 13.1-point full-season average in 2007-08.
"Obviously, Neto was a big part of the championship we won, but we have more than enough guys here who are capable of putting it in the goal," said Machel Millwood, the team's leading scorer, who might not play tonight because of a left ankle sprain. "Sure, we miss those guys, but we had to move on and have other guys step up."
Added Denison Cabral, the franchise's all-time leading scorer: "We all know our responsibilities. Our team has never been an offensive team only. We always had enough people who could score. Maybe in the past, we had too many. A lot of our offense has to do with us playing good defense and creating opportunities off that."
A team effort will be necessary against Monterrey, which is on a four-game winning streak and can move percentage points behind the league-leading Blast with a victory.
LA RAZA (6-3) @BLAST (6-1)
Tonight, 7:35 Radio: 680 AM