There have been times in the past six weeks when rookie Baltimore Blast midfielder Chris Simon began to wonder if he ever would play in a Major Soccer League game.
Simon, the team's No. 4 draft pick from James Madison University by way of Trinidad, waited and waited for an H-2 visa to arrive from the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service office in St. Albans, Vt., that would allow him to play for the Blast.
The visa arrived yesterday, and Simon is expected to make his debut this weekend against the Cleveland Crunch during back-to-back games Friday night in Cleveland and Saturday night at the Baltimore Arena.
"When I got the news, I was totally excited," said Simon. "You don't feel like you're part of the team when game time arrives and you find yourself in the stands taking notes. All players look forward to and wait for the games. But all I could do was practice."
While Simon was in a celebrating mood, another Blast rookie midfielder, Dominic Feltham, a No. 2 draft choice from the University of Maryland whose home is in Surrey, England, still was living with disappointment.
Feltham, like Simon, has been waiting for an H-2 visa before he can play in a regular-season game.
"It's frustrating," said Feltham, who was Maryland's captain his senior year. "I thought I'd miss a couple of games, and suddenly it's 11 games already and now Janet [Streett, administrative assistant to coach Kenny Cooper] tells me it might be a couple of weeks longer. I just have to stay focused and think of the practices as my games."
Streett said the delays occurred because Simon and Feltham had to get H-2 visas instead of the simpler H-1 visas that are given to "a person of proven exceptional ability along the lines of a Stan Stamenkovic [former Blast great].
"Chris and Dominic haven't played pro soccer in this country and aren't proven in their field. So the Immigration office feels an American can do the same job. That's why they have to get the H-2 visas."
NOTES: Mark Mettrick (strained groin) missed a second straight day of practice yesterday. His status is day-to-day. . . . Mike Stankovic (bruised right foot) and David Vaudreuil (sore right foot) also missed practice, but both are expected to play Friday.