Rusty Troy was a target man who was off-target last season.
"It got to the point where I thought I was jinxed," said Troy, a third-year player who is starting for the Blast at midfield on a line with Domenic Mobilio. "I was always a step behind or step ahead or I'd just completely miss the goal. I just didn't know what to do."
During the 1989-90 season he took 105 shots and scored just 12 goals. In the major leagues that would translate to a .115 batting average. In the playoffs, he scored three goals on 16 shots. And in the Major Soccer League if the ball hits a post or bar or misses altogether, it does not count as a shot. Only shots on goal that are saved count as shots in this game.
Let's just say that by the end of the playoffs, despite two goals in the fourth quarter of Game 6 of the championship series with San Diego, no one was saying very many nice things about Rusty Troy -- not even Rusty Troy.
"I got too emotional about it," Troy said this week, as he prepared for tonight's game in Dallas. "There was pressure to score. Not just from Coach [Kenny] Cooper, but from myself. And my inexperience -- I'm not making excuses, but I wasn't ever sure I could score and I worried about it. It is one of the things I
admire so much in Domenic. He just knows he is going to score and he just lets it happen."
During preseason practices last fall, Troy's name circulated from time to time as a possible candidate to be cut. But Troy's best asset is his work ethic and the guy kept digging, a fact that did not go unnoticed by Cooper.
Troy, who is second only to defender Bruce Savage in consecutive games played, at 79 straight, earned his first full-time starting position this season. It has made some difference in his outlook. Before, he had always set personal goals. This season, he says, he just wants the team to win.
"Rusty will play anywhere I ask him to," said Cooper. "It is not an easy thing to do and there aren't too many guys who can do it. We've played him everywhere, and if he felt his goal-scoring was jinxed in the playoffs, well, we've all been jinxed in the playoffs a little bit.
"We all know when it comes to postseason play, you can't just be close. I think the experience of those playoffs will help him in the future. He'll remember those misses and realize he has to score when he has the chance."
Now, as the team returns to Troy's home state (he was born and raised in Irving, Texas) to face the Sidekicks, he has a sense of security. He may not be as confident in his scoring as Mobilio is in his, but he is certainly a lot better off than he was last spring.
So far this season, Troy has scored nine goals on 37 shots, which means he has raised his scoring percentage to .243, more than 100 points above last year.
"I thought about my inability to score all summer," Troy said.
"Now, I'm starting for us at midfield and I'm concentrating better," he said. "I've also taken some pressure off myself. I realize there is no way I'm going to score six goals on six shots. No one is. The way I look at it now, I figure I'll have five good scoring opportunities a game and if I don't get the first one, I've still got four chances left. Hopefully, I won't get to that fifth chance without a goal."
VS. DALLAS SIDEKICKS
* WHEN: Tonight, 8:35.
* WHERE: Reunion Arena.
* RADIO: WCAO-AM 600.
* OUTLOOK: The Blast (9-8) will try to improve its 3-5 road record and close to within a half-game of Eastern Division leader Kansas City (10-7).
Dallas is in last place in the West with an 8-10 record. The Sidekicks have the MSL's leading goal scorer in Tatu (28 goals, 30 assists for 58 points). Midfielder Richard Chinapoo, who anchored Dallas' defense for the past two years, will be returning to Reunion for the first time since being signed by the Blast this season.