Blast coach Kenny Cooper isn't defensive about his defense going into tomorrow night's home game against the Kansas City Comets.
"I think, initially, Kansas City adjusted to the changes in the league better than we did," said Cooper, whose team is giving up an average of 7.5 goals a game compared to the Comets' 3.7. "The Comets, obviously, have played tighter defense than we have. But I also think the last two games show we're playing better, especially in the midfield."
The Blast defense has shifted gears. No longer are the main defensive lines drawn at the back. With the goals enlarged from 12 to 14 feet in width and from 6 1/2 to 7 1/2 feet in height, Cooper has been busy making adjustments.
Midfielders Mike Stankovic and Richard Chinapoo have shifted to the back, while defender Mark Mettrick has been moved up to midfield to cut down on opponents' fastbreaks. Forward Tim Wittman also has moved to midfield.
"We've got six guys with tremendous work rates in the midfield," said Cooper, referring to Mettrick, Wittman, Billy Ronson, Rusty Troy, David Vaudreuil and Joey Barger. "They get up and down the floor. It's a powerful midfield, because not only does it force turnovers, it can turn those turnovers into goals."
Barger, however, will not be a part of that midfield for two to three weeks because of a stress fracture in his right leg -- in his tibia and fibula bones.
"We've been scoring 13 and 10 goals and that has been in our favor," Cooper said. "As long as we work hard, that will be what happens. If we don't work hard, then we could lose 13-9 or 10-6."
* BLAST PENMANSHIP: Fans interested in getting players' autographs and coupons good for $3 discounts on $10 tickets to Saturday's game should be at one of the following four sites in the next two days: This evening, from 6 to 8, at the Ski Show at Festival Hall (Barger and Domenic Mobilio).
Tomorrow: 10:30 a.m. to noon, at Eastpoint Mall (rookies Dominic Feltham and Chris Simon); noon to 1 p.m., at Glen Burnie Mall (Angelo Panzetta and Chris Haywood); noon to 1 p.m. at Towsontown Centre (Troy and Scoop Stanisic).
* THE NAME GAME: The Blast will name its construction-worker mascot Saturday. The winner, from among 339 entries, will receive two season tickets. There will be three runners-up and each will receive four tickets to a future game and an autographed soccer ball.
* SEGOTA HURT: San Diego's All-Star midfielder Branko Segota has a small crack in his right fibula (lower leg) that will sideline him from two to five weeks. The injury occurred some time during the Sockers' first two games but wasn't diagnosed until yesterday.
* KAI CONVALESCING: Player-coach Kai Haaskivi of Cleveland was to undergo arthroscopic surgery today to repair torn cartilage in his right knee. He'll miss tonight's game at Tacoma and Sunday's game at San Diego but is expected back on the bench by Nov. 11. He isn't likely to play again for three weeks. Assistant coach Trevor Dawkins will be acting head coach in Haaskivi's absence.