After smoke got in midfielder Joe Barger's left eye during a truly dynamite introduction ceremony Saturday night, the Baltimore Blast rained a club-record 11 goals on the St. Louis Storm in the second half on the way to a 13-9 victory in the home opener at the Baltimore Arena.
Barger was OK yesterday after his eye was flushed by Blast team physician Dr. Joseph Ciotola on Saturday night, and he will play tomorrow against the Cleveland Crunch in a 7:05 p.m. game the Arena.
At first, it was thought that Barger, an alumnus of Fallston High and Loyola College, might have suffered a badly scratched cornea from a particle in the smoke.
But Barger said yesterday: "It was only a slight scratch, and it doesn't bother me today. I'm fine. I couldn't open my eye at first. Dr. Ciotola told me that a night's sleep really helped me, since I kept the eye shut and the moisture out of it."
Barger added: "There was something in the smoke that bothered my eye. There was no defect in the exploding device or anything like that. I'll be ready to run through the dynamite again [tomorrow]."
Blast assistant general manager Drew Forrester said yesterday of the three large sticks of dynamite that exploded as the Baltimore players ran through them during the team's new opening ceremonies: "It was the most elaborate [opening] ever, and there are a lot of details involved. There must have been an irritant in the smoke that bothered Joey. The smoke usually billows straight up, but I guess with the doors opening and closing, the smoke went towards Joey. We're going to correct it before [tomorrow]. It was a one-time thing."
Though Barger is all right, the same can't be said for the Storm (1-3).
St. Louis has scored 30 goals in four games but has only one victory. Storm midfielder Thompson Usiyan had a hat trick against the Blast and no one noticed. Preki had two goals and four assists, and it wasn't enough to make a difference.
"We were relentless," Blast coach Kenny Cooper said yesterday. "We were angry after losing to Kansas City Friday night [7-6 in overtime after Baltimore blew a 4-0, third-quarter lead]. I think we can wear people down in our arena because it's smaller and we have a lot of people who like to work hard."
If Cooper is right, the Blast should be in for a fruitful run after losing its first two games on the road this season.
Baltimore (1-2) has four more games at home before going on the road, which has been unkind to Major Soccer League teams early this season.
The larger goals (14 feet wide instead of 12 feet and 7 1/2 feet high instead of 6 1/2 ) have resulted in more goals.
In all, MSL teams are averaging a combined 11.2 goals a game compared with 8.3 last season.
"It's a forward's dream and a defender's nightmare," said Blast striker Domenic Mobilio, who overcame the effects of strep throat to give the crowd of 8,753 a good show that included a spectacular goal on a breakaway for a 10-7 lead 9 minutes, 57 seconds into the fourth quarter.
Mobilio got a lot of help from Billy Ronson, who handed out a team-record of six assists, and Tim Wittman, who matched Usiyan's hat trick.
Wittman has been impressive in two games since passing a team physical last Monday and practicing for the first time this season Tuesday.
Wittman, who had failed two physicals because of a degenerative disk problem, has scored four goals and contributed one assist off just four days of workouts this season.
"Tim Wittman comes to play. He's one player you never have to worry about giving 100 percent," said Cooper.