Richard Chinapoo seems more content with his life in th Major Soccer League these days.
The laid-back Baltimore Blast defender with the booming, 79-mph shot has returned to the scene of his top achievements (( after spending two years with the Dallas Sidekicks as part of Tatu's entourage.
Chinapoo, 33, was one of the most popular Blast players for five years, in the mid-1980s.
A warm smile and pleasant personality endeared Chinapoo to fans off the field, and his spectacular shot entertained them on the field.
Chinapoo helped Baltimore win its only MSL championship, in the 1983-84 season, and he scored 40 goals and had 21 assists in the 1986-87 season. Only five Blast players have scored 40 goals in a season.
In the summer of 1988, Chinapoo became a free agent and decided to find out what it would be like to play in Dallas with the scoring machine, Tatu.
"Dallas was a fun city," said Chinapoo, who returns to play against the Sidekicks for the first time in Reunion Arena tonight. "But I kept telling them [the Sidekicks] that Baltimore was my home. I decided I wanted to come home and finish my career."
And what about Tatu?
"There's no question that everybody in Dallas is a supporting cast for Tatu," Chinapoo said. "Most of the offense centered around him. We all wanted him to do well, and, if he's having a good game, the team is usually going to win. But if he's having an off day, we all realized that we had to do a lot more to take up the slack."
Tatu is a two-time MSL scoring champion and Most Valuable Player.
"I'm better suited for Baltimore's team style of play and tough defense," said Chinapoo, who has moved from midfielder to defender to help a defense that was shaky early in the season.
Chinapoo has more than lived up to expectations defensively, blocking 17 shots in the first 17 games and handing out a `D team-high 43 fouls to let opponents know he's around.
He also has contributed seven goals and eight assists, including big goal in Friday night's 7-6, overtime victory over the Kansas City Comets.
"As long as he pops in a big goal every now and then and does the job defensively, I'll be satisfied," Blast coach Kenny Cooper said. "His moving to the back along with Mike [Stankovic] has been a big factor in our improved defense."
Cooper said Chinapoo is another example of a player who has established roots in Baltimore and wanted to end his career here.
"Richard has a home here [on Wilkens Avenue] and is going to school [he is 12 hours from a bachelor's degree in accounting at the University of Maryland Baltimore County]," Cooper said. "A lot of players who come through Baltimore wind up calling it home because it has a lot to offer."
Unlike most players in the MSL, Chinapoo loves emotional games against former teammates, such as tonight's date against Tatu and the Sidekicks.
He scored one goal and had two assists in a 9-7 victory over Dallas at the Baltimore Arena Nov. 21.
Now, it's on to Dallas for the first time.
"These games are fun for me," Chinapoo said. "I talk to the Dallas players all the time. I can't help it. They know what I can do and I know what they can do. So, it's a matter of doing just the opposite of what you normally do. You try to trick them."
NOTES: It will be Big Buddy Night at the Baltimore Arena Saturday when the Blast entertains the San Diego Sockers at 7:35. . . . Members of the Baltimore business community and the Blast have teamed to provide 2,700 free tickets for youngsters from area charities such as the Baltimore city police youth clubs, Big Brothers and Sisters, Maryland Special Olympics and Associated Catholic and Jewish charities.
Opponent: Dallas Sidekicks
Site: Reunion Arena, Dallas, 8:35 p.m.
Radio: WCAO (600 AM)
Outlook: Dallas is coming off a 10-6 loss Sunday to St. Louis. F Tatu (30 goals, 28 assists for a MSL-leading 58 points) was limited to 2 assists, as the Sidekicks dropped into last place in the Western Division. D Mike Powers (sprained right foot) is questionable for the Sidekicks. Baltimore lost, 5-4, in OT to Tacoma on Sunday, costing the Blast a chance to gain a first-place tie with Kansas City in the Eastern Division. MF Tim Wittman (right hip pointer) and G Hank Henry (sprained right ankle) are out for Baltimore.