Blast coach Kenny Cooper is shopping for a goalkeeper today.
Cooper did not anticipate a 2-3 start, and following Saturday's 6-5 loss to Kansas City, the coach no longer could ignore his uneasiness with backup goalkeeper Scoop Stanisic.
"I don't think anyone will come in and be the total answer," Cooper said. "But we've got to have the big save in the big game at the right time -- and we're not getting it."
Finding such a keeper will not be easy. A look at San Diego, which has only one goalie signed, says that much. And Sockers coach Ron Newman has had few bodies to even take a look at.
Hank Henry, who spent the last two years as a backup in Dallas, and has three MSL games on his resume, including a shutout of the Wichita Wings last season, has come and gone in San Diego. So have National Professional Soccer League keepers Warren Lipka and Flippi Hernandez.
Former Wichita backup, 30-year-old Nenad "Ziggy" Zigante, has tried out with the Sockers and is still there, though unsigned.
There is Jay McCutcheon, 29, who had one promising year as a backup with the Blast in 1986-87, before moving on to the Chicago Sting the next year. He is now playing in the NPSL.
The best prospect out there, however, may be Jamie Swanner, who has no MSL experience, but is getting rave reviews in the NPSL playing for former Cleveland Force coach Timo Liekoski.
Cooper will not say who he is talking to, but hopes to have a new face in camp early this week.
"You win and lose as a team, but some of those goals we're giving up have to be stopped -- whether they're blocked or saved," said Cooper, unwilling to put total blame on Stanisic, 28. "I'm not saying Scoop won't get the job done for us. He may have a great game against San Diego Friday, but I'm not comfortable with him and I don't think our team is totally, either. They seem to be playing back on their heels a little bit."
Part of the discomfort could be attributed to actions of opposing coaches and players, who have been heard screaming, "Shoot! Shoot! He can't stop anything!" And those opposing players have been listening, letting shots fly, often as soon as they've crossed midfield.
Stanisic is 2-2 with a 7.2 goals-against average, while filling in for the injured Scott Manning, who has one loss and a 8.5 GAA. Manning's ankle will be re-evaluated this Friday. He hopes to get clearance to begin working out then, which means he still could be two to three weeks from playing.
"I think Kansas City played well," said Stanisic, who made 14 saves. "They came at us and I think we sat back too much. There were a lot of shots from the red line . . . but they were getting three or four guys in our box and it is very difficult to see the ball being shot. You can't react if you can't see it."
* SOCKERS SOCKED -- AGAIN: The Cleveland Crunch played bombs away in a charged 9-3 victory in San Diego last night, pushing the Sockers to 1-5. Hector Marinaro had a hat trick that included the game-winner. Paul Dougherty scored all three San Diego goals.
* WARM WELCOME: Former Blast midfielder Carl Valentine received a warm welcome Saturday in his first return to Baltimore since his trade to Kansas City.
Blast owner Ed Hale met him on the field before the game and introduced him to Gov. William Donald Schaefer. And then the fans applauded loudly during introductions -- and again during the game, when Valentine rallied the Comets into a 4-4 tie with 4:04 gone in the fourth quarter.
"I had a lot of mixed emotions out there," Valentine said later. "It was the first time I was on this field since we [the Blast] lost the championship game. The fans were great, but it was strange. Such mixed emotions. And yet, it felt good to win."
* SAVAGE DEFENSE: Blast defender Bruce Savage noted his team got a dose of its own medicine Saturday and didn't react very well.
"Every time you got the ball, Kansas City had someone in your face," he said. "They took us out of our game like that, and they deserved to win. You can't blame Scoop individually for the loss. We've all been around long enough to know if you don't play hard and pressure people, you're not going to win -- and we didn't."
* RECORD TIED: When Jan Goossens assisted on Iain Fraser's winning goal Saturday, he tied former Comet Dale Mitchell as the team's all-time point scorer with 359. But Mitchell still holds the goal-scoring lead (212-168), while Goossens has the margin in assists (170-147).
* PREKI SNUFFED: Preki, with his new St. Louis teammates, returned to Tacoma Saturday for the first time since the All-Star more or less jilted the Stars for the Storm. And as they say, paybacks can be rough indeed.
Tacoma's defense shut out Preki. The MSL's leading point scorer got nothing in the 4-2 Tacoma victory that kept it atop the Western Division standings.