Some Major Soccer League teams are adjusting more quickly than others to the rule changes designed to put scorers in paradise. That much seems clear after the first weekend of the season.
In St. Louis, Preki didn't miss a beat, scoring four goals in his first game, and gathering an assist in his second to join Cleveland forward Hector Marinaro (three goals, two assists) atop the scoring race.
In Kansas City, the Comets are 1-1, following yesterday's 6-5 loss to 2-0 Tacoma. But coach Dave Clements is happy because former Blast midfielder Carl Valentine began his Comets' career with a game-winning goal in a 4-1 victory over San Diego, and had two more scores yesterday.
Meanwhile, the two teams who were the class of the MSL last season, defending champion San Diego and runner-up Baltimore, are on the bottom of their respective divisions at 0-2 and 0-1, respectively.
While the rest of the teams have opened up their scoring attacks, the Sockers and the Blast are scoring just like it was the old days.
The Sockers, who followed the Kansas City defeat with a 6-5 loss to Dallas, evidently are suffering from playing a number of MSL newcomers.
Meanwhile, the Blast, which lost 8-3 in Wichita Saturday, is a veteran team that seems most affected by the rule changes, which have enlarged the goal by 30 percent, put a 15-foot distance between defenders and the ball on free kicks, and penalized players who accrue four fouls.
"Maybe we're still playing the old way," said Blast midfielder Billy Ronson. "Wichita played the night before and got bombarded in St. Louis [10-6]. Maybe they learned from that. Maybe we'll learn from our loss to them."
Certainly, Blast coach Kenny Cooper saw a number of things that need work:
* M&M factor: The team has to get the ball to target men Domenic Mobilio and Dale Mitchell earlier.
"We didn't play to their strengths," said Cooper. "In Dale's case, I told the team after the game they've got to get the ball to Mitchell and run off him."
Mobilio and Mitchell have been in training camp only a week.
"It is going to take time for us to adjust to Dale, Dom -- and Richard [Chinapoo] too," said Ronson. "Dale and Richard are both new and we play a lot differently from the teams they played with last year. It's difficult. We have to look at how they play and adjust and they have to fit in to the way we play and adjust."
* Long-range shooting: Cooper said overall his team has to take more shots. More specifically, Chinapoo, who has one of the hardest shots in the league, and Mike Stankovic, who scored on a 55-footer Saturday, have to open up from long range.
While the average number of shots taken by a team this weekend was around 51, the Blast got off 25.
"We were looking for the pretty shots," said Ronson. "We've got to understand that's not the way this game is being played this season."
Blast forward/defender Tim Wittman, who has been suffering with a strained muscle in his back and a deteriorating disk, is expected to take the team physical today.