When Blast owner Ed Hale said backup goalkeeper Scoop Stanisic would see more playing time this season, he probably didn't know exactly how profound he was being.
Today, Stanisic is the Blast's No. 1 goalkeeper, after Scott Manning strained an ankle ligament in practice yesterday. Manning, whose left ankle was placed in a hard cast, is expected to be out for up to three weeks.
The good news is forward/defender Tim Wittman passed his physical yesterday and has been given clearance to return to practice.
If Blast coach Kenny Cooper felt as if he was in the middle of a segment of "General Hospital," it is little wonder, as he visited Kernan Hospital's rehabilitation specialist Bill Neal to follow up on Wittman, and then talked with team doctor Joseph Ciotola about Manning.
"Bad start, good finish," said Cooper, with a sigh. "We'll adapt and adjust."
Cooper said he will not go out hunting for a replacement goalie.
"I have every confidence in Scoop's ability," Cooper said. "Scoop has played well and he'll be ready and fired up. This is why we have two good goalkeepers."
Stanisic, 27, is in his second full season with the Blast. A year ago, he was 10-8 with a 3.07 goals-against average. One of those wins came against the Kansas City Comets, whom the Blast plays in Kemper Arena Friday, while seven others came against St. Louis, which comes to the Arena Saturday for the Blast's home opener.
"Scoop proved he can play last season," said Wittman, who also hopes to be in the lineup Saturday. "And the more he gets in there, the better he'll get."
Stanisic is big, at 6 feet 2 and 180 pounds, and knows how to cover a lot of ground quickly. Given his outdoor experience in Yugoslavia in the mid-1980s and with the Washington Diplomats last summer, the larger goals in the Major Soccer League this season will not be that unfamiliar.
"But they are different from what we are used to indoors," said Stanisic, who stayed after practice yesterday to work on defending long-distance shots by Rusty Troy, Richard Chinapoo and Mike Stankovic. "I watched our game from the bench last weekend and I talked to some players around the league and I learned that 70 percent of the goals scored were from long-range outside the box. I am working very hard to be ready for those unsuspected shots from the red line and beyond."
Manning could attest to that, after being bombed from long range in the opener, an 8-3 loss in Wichita.
Ironically, Manning had just had his salary boosted last Friday by several thousand dollars.
"After Glenn Carbonara decided not to return to the team, we discovered we had a little extra room under the salary cap," said Blast general manager John Borozzi. "So Ed met with Scott last Friday and offered an increase."
* In a business-side decision, Blast public relations director Drew Forrester has been promoted to assistant general manager.
"I'm up to my neck with work and needed someone," said Borozzi. "Drew has been with the club nine years and he has handled everything I've thrown at him in an exemplary manner. I'm very comfortable with him in the position."