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Blast star Pat Healey retires to become coach of rival Harrisburg Heat

Blast star Pat Healey retires to become coach of rival Harrisburg Heat
Blast defender Pat Healey, left, and Wave midfielder Marcio Leite run after a ball in the second period of a game this past season. (Barbara Haddock Taylor / Baltimore Sun)

Blast star defender Pat Healey, who was instrumental in the team’s five league championships over his 10-year career, retired as a player Thursday to become the new head coach of the Major Arena Soccer League rival Harrisburg Heat.

Over the course of his career, Healey, a 32-year-old Bel Air native, made an immediate and lasting impact as one of top defenders in indoor soccer while fulfilling his dream of playing for the hometown team.

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He began his career in the now-defunct National Indoor Soccer League in the 2008-09 season and was named its Rookie of the Year while helping the Blast bring home the first of their five championships during his time.

He was named MASL Defender of the Year in back-to-back seasons (2014-15, 2015-16), was a six-time all-league defender and spent several years as captain for the Blast, who are three-time defending champions.

Healey was signed to play for the Blast this coming season, but chose to become head coach of the Heat after another former Blast great, Denison Cabral, stepped down from the post in May.

“It was an amazing 10 years,” Healey said. “I couldn’t ask for a better playing career with the Blast, playing for your hometown fans and family in the stands. It’s something I’ll cherish, but there’s opportunities that come and this is one I found a way to work. So the next chapter in my life is coaching the Harrisburg Heat.”

In maintaining their longtime success, the Blast have seen quality players come and go with Healey being the latest. In nine of his 10 seasons, the team reached the championship series.

“He was a huge part of our organization — captain of the team, Defender of the Year, a leader for us — and we won multiple championships with him. It’s obviously not a great situation for us to lose one of the top defenders in the league, but we understand it’s the best decision for Pat at this time,” Blast coach Danny Kelly said. “As an organization, we’ve been through this before losing the likes of P.J. Wakefield and Mike Lookingland, and we know that’s part of the business. You lose players and you wish them well and you appreciate everything they’ve done for the organization in helping us achieve all we’ve achieved. Obviously Pat was a big part of that.”

During his playing days, Healey was fiercely competitive with a high soccer IQ, often referred to as a coach on the field. He knows he’ll have to make adjustments with his work on the Heat bench.

“I have to take a different approach to everything now,” he said. “I’m going to have to change my role and style and figure this out as a coach without being able to step out on the field. That’s going to be difficult at times, but now I’m more willing and able to do that. I want to pass on my knowledge to the players to effectively get better as a team and get results.”

Blast owner Ed Hale Sr. appreciated the contributions Healey made to the team. While it was tough to see one of his standouts move on, Hale said he was in total support.

“Pat is a coach, there’s no question about it and the next progression for him is to go up there and coach them,” he said.

After going 10-10 in the 2016-17 season and giving the Blast a significant push in the playoffs, the Heat fell to 6-16 last season to finish in last place in the league’s Eastern Division.

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