Billy Ronson won another game in overtime for the Baltimore Blast on Friday night, and should be taking bows around the Major Soccer League for his early-season scoring binge.
But Ronson (seven goals, 17 assists) said yesterday that a lot of people around the league still are waiting for him to fall off.
"There are so many people doubting me," said Ronson, who used his knee to knock in the winning goal 3 minutes, 46 seconds into sudden-death overtime against the St. Louis Storm on Friday night at the St. Louis Arena.
Ronson's goal, which gave the Blast (6-5) a 6-5 victory, was his second overtime game-winner in eight days. Ronson beat the six-time league champion San Diego Sockers, 5-4, Nov. 15 in San Diego, when he scored 5:33 into overtime.
"The doubting Thomases are what drive me on," said Ronson, who had a team single-game record of six assists in a 13-9 win over the Storm in Baltimore on Oct. 27. "I just get tired of hearing all the time that I'm not that good or I'm this or that. That makes me more determined to go out every game and prove them wrong."
Baltimore coach Kenny Cooper said yesterday that he doesn't know why Ronson can't get any respect.
"It just baffles me," said Cooper. "Billy Ronson has nothing to prove to anybody. He's having his third straight good year. He's become an impact player. Those people who doubt Billy Ronson aren't soccer fans."
Ronson's small stature (5 feet 4) and late start in the MSL (he was a rookie at 28) have all been obstacles for him.
Ronson said he got lucky on the winning goal Friday night.
"I could say I side-toed it or toe-poked it or anything else that sounds good," he said. "But the truth is the ball bounced off my knee and went in the net. All I did was break wide and was on the weak side when Angelo [Panzetta] hit a bullet off the post, and the ball bounced to me. It was an outstanding play by Angelo."
Panzetta said he was able to draw St. Louis goalkeeper Slobo Ilijevski out of the net before shooting.
"I took the ball around Slobo after he came out of the goal, and then I got off the shot," said Panzetta, who scored his first goal of the season earlier in the game. "I was running on the wing,
and Timmy Wittman split two defenders at the red line with a perfect pass to me."
Wittman (one goal, two assists), Domenic Mobilio (two goals), Mike Stankovic (one goal) and Scott Manning (13 saves, including a tough stop of a shot by David Eise with 1:40 left in regulation and the score tied at 5) also played key roles in the victory that moved Baltimore over .500 for the first time this season.
Mobilio's goal off a pass from Wittman had tied the game at 5 at 8:45 of the fourth quarter.
Friday night's win over the Storm (4-7) was the ninth straight for Baltimore since St. Louis entered the league as an expansion franchise last season.
* Blast owner Ed Hale said yesterday that candy manufacturer Leaf, Inc., made the team's Dec. 4 trip to Manchester, England, possible.
The Blast will become the first MSL team to play an indoor soccer game outside North America when it meets Oldham Athletic (top English Second Division outdoor team) in Manchester.
"It's unbelievable what they've done for us," said Hale. "They've taken some of the money they usually put into sponsoring Major League Baseball [Leaf has been a major corporate sponsor of MLB since 1988 and recently extended its contract with baseball through 1993] and used it to sponsor us this season."
How did this association with Leaf, Inc., whose headquarters is in Bannockburn, Ill., come about?
"Right after we traded David Byrne last season, I was in St. Louis for a game, and this woman [Donna Homa, Leaf's business development manager for the Mid-Atlantic region and a Blast fan] yelled at me, 'I want David Byrne back,' " said Hale. "I didn't know who she was then, but I sure do now."
Homa, who has lived in Baltimore seven years, said she has been a Blast fan for four years and decided last season that Leaf would be a good corporate sponsor for the Blast.
Homa presented the idea to Charles Trado, Leaf's senior vice president of sales, and had the sponsorship approved.