Blast coach Kenny Cooper told his team last Sunday veterans could face being cut or traded, and yesterday he was as good as his word.
The Blast told veteran midfielder Freddie Thompson he woulnot fit in its plans for the coming season.
"It came out of the blue," said Thompson, 27. "I mean, we haven'even played our first preseason game yet. The Blast knows I can play in this league, but they don't know what the new guys can do. They haven't seen them in a game yet."
The Blast, however, is loaded with midfielders. Experienced onewith big shots like Richard Chinapoo and Mike Stankovic, quick ones like Billy Ronson, young ones like Mark Mettrick and brand new ones like David Vaudreuil, who is making an impressive comeback from major knee surgery. Not to mention draft picks Chris Simon and Dom Feltham, who are also midfielders and looking for a future.
"It is true we know what Freddie can do," said Cooper. "Are wspeculating about the other, younger players? Yes. But those young players have to see light at the end of the tunnel and we're committed to building through the draft."
In fact, the draft is the way Thompson came through the Blast'doors in the first place. He was its second-round pick out of George Mason University in 1986.
He had a career-best 37 points last season, 18 goals, 19 assistsand was a key member of the team's power-play and penalty-killing units. His four-year production: 58 goals, 33 assists.
But besides being loaded with midfielders, there is the MajoSoccer League salary cap of $630,000. The Blast, already over the cap, had to make a veteran cut or trade to open up space for one, maybe two newcomers. And Cooper said he is still "open-minded" about more cuts.
As is usually the case in any cut, however, Thompson wadisappointed by both the decision and the way he found out about it.
"I had to ask what was going on," he said. "I heard my name was mentioned in an article about cuts. Since Mike [Reynolds] and I were going to sign an apartment lease [yesterday afternoon], I thought I should get things straight. If I hadn't asked, I still wouldn't know and I would have signed the lease. I think I deserve more consideration than that."
Yesterday, The Sun reported Thompson, Rusty Troy and Reynolds could be the players on the chopping block. All three went to see Cooper after practice.
"I wanted to wait to make a decision," Cooper said. "But theasked and I felt I had an obligation to be honest. The system we're operating in makes a cut like this necessary. When Freddie asked I told him he was the one."
Cooper said the players had "every day in practice" to influencthe decision. He said the cut was hard to make, but based on what he had seen, it was the one to make.
"But that's not to say Freddie can't play somewhere else," saiCooper. "Being let go now gives him a chance to try to make a roster somewhere else if he wants to. Freddie is an intelligent young man and he'll land on his feet. I'm not worried about that."
Thompson, who is working on a master's degree in businesadministration at Loyola, was still coping with the news of his release last night.
"They said it was basically a salary cap move," said Thompsonwho earned in the $30,000 range. "But they also talked about being worried about my knee holding up through the season."
Thompson's knee was scoped during the summer, but he saihe is not feeling any after-effects.