A weary Baltimore Blast team arrived four hours late in Manchester, England yesterday morning after traveling all night from Baltimore-Washington International Airport, and the players immediately went to bed, right?
Blast coach Kenny Cooper, on advice from team doctor Joseph Ciotola, instructed all the players except an exhausted Tim Wittman to stay up and get ready for the afternoon's practice.
"Dr. Ciotola said from a physiological standpoint it would be better if they stayed up the rest of the day and went to bed early," said Cooper. "After a while, the players were wide awake and able to practice. You could see the fatigue, but that's expected. I put in a 10 p.m. curfew."
The Blast will be the first Major Soccer League team to play an indoor game outside of North America today at 12:30 p.m. Baltimore time, meeting top English Second Division outdoor team Oldham Athletic in a one-game challenge match.
If the Blast wins, played under MSL rules, it is expected that Oldham Athletic will come to Baltimore for a rematch next year.
The game will feature Baltimore's MSL vast indoor experience against Oldham Athletic's outstanding soccer skills and limited indoor expertise.
"It's shaping up to be a classical game," said Cooper yesterday. "Oldham Athletic is not as naive about the indoor game as some people think. They've [English Football League] been holding an indoor soccer tournament for six years. I know until now it's been a different version [out-of-bounds lines instead of --er boards and played on a smaller field], but they've been playing on AstroTurf like us and have become very adept on it.
Cooper said, "We need to go out and play our game and dictate the rhythm and flow. We didn't travel 6,000 miles for the fun of it. It's our business to win the game."
NOTES: Baltimore midfielder Mark Mettrick (strained groin) is "extremely doubtful" for the game, a disappointment since his Glossup home is 15 minutes from Manchester.
Cooper, whose Blackpool home is 52 miles from Manchester, also received discouraging news. His father, Joseph, is too ill to travel and will not see the game. It was a dream of Cooper's to have his father watch his team play a top English outdoor team.
"The doctors have told him not to travel," said Cooper. "I'll go up there and visit him Wednesday [tomorrow]. We have a day off before we come home Thursday."
Cooper, Blast team captain Bruce Savage and MSL commissioner Earl Foreman spoke at a news conference yesterday in Manchester.
"The main questions they had were how the MSL was going to further the game of outdoor soccer in United States in preparation for the 1994 World Cup," said Cooper.