Scott Manning's ability to laugh at himself has helped him make it through 12 years in the uncertain world of the Major Soccer League.
Manning, considered by many the top goalkeeper in the league, is secure enough to talk about a funny incident that happened Thursday night during the Baltimore Blast's 6-4 victory over the Kansas City Comets at the sparsely populated Baltimore Arena.
Because of the snowstorm that hit late in the afternoon, only 2,097 fans were in the stands, and it wasn't difficult to hear what everybody said.
"This guy behind me hollered out, 'Manning, you should have retired last year. Henry can play in the goal,' " Manning said. "I thought it was funny."
It just so happened that Manning made 23 saves in the game and lowered his goals-against average to 6.01, putting him back in the statistics among the top 10 goalkeepers in the league.
Manning suffered a sprained ankle in practice after the first game of the season and was out nine games, accounting for his slow start.
However, statistics are deceiving when it comes to Manning.
He has won the league's goals-against title only once (3.89), but night after night Manning makes more spectacular saves than any other goalkeeper in the MSL.
And those saves have come against the top teams in the league. For instance, last season, Manning didn't play a game against the expansion St. Louis Storm.
Backup goalkeeper Scoop Stanisic posted a 7-0 record against the Storm.
Manning, 32, has had so many magnificent games that peoplhave come to take him for granted. He has set a high standard that few will be able to follow.
Manning seldom shows much emotion after a superb game in which he might save four to five near-certain goals.
But there is one thing that will bring out the young kid in Mannin-- scoring a goal or getting an assist.
When Manning threw in a goal on an empty net Thursday nighwith 50 seconds left to account for Baltimore's final goal, he did a little dance.
It was only the fourth goal in his career and he jokingly warnesecond-year Blast midfielder David Vaudreuil (four goals, three assists) to "look out."
Manning has one goal and one assist and doesn't look like threat to catch Vaudreuil.
But ever since Manning (one goal, three assists) scored morpoints than Vaudreuil (no points in six games before a serious knee injury) last season, he hasn't let the youngster forget it.
All the Tacoma Stars players recently submitted to a voluntary drug testing because they felt they "should practice what we preach."
The Stars players participate in the team's "Drugs are a Dragprogram that is held throughout the community to let the youth in western Washington know the athletes have strong opinions against drugs.
"We felt this would be a good way to show the youngsters wdon't use drugs and don't want them to, either," said Stars player/assistant coach Joe Waters.
The club reported that all the players were found drug free.
Several former Blast players are off to good starts in the indoor National Professional Soccer League (formerly the American Indoor Soccer Association).
Goals scored beyond the red line count three points, goals inside the red line count two points and penalty kicks or shootouts count one point.
Andy Chapman, who plays for the Detroit Rockers, was leading the league in scoring after nine games (40 points).
Drago, also a member of the Rockers, was second to Chapman with 39 points.
Paul Kitson and Baltimorean John Abe were tied for seventh with 25 points. Kitson plays for the Illinois Thunder and Abe is a member of the Hershey Impact.
Abe was leading the NPSL in power-play goals (five).
Stanisic, who also plays for Hershey, had a 7.28 goals-against average, which placed him among the top goalkeepers in the league.