A year ago, Billy Phillips was the Coach of the Year in the Major Soccer League, after directing Dallas to a 31-21 record and first place in the Western Division. And Gordon Jago was club president, making great inroads in corporate sponsorships.
Today, Jago is head coach -- again. After a 12-19 start, Phillips accepted an off-field assistant coaching position and role as color commentator on the Sidekicks' radio broadcasts.
"It was one of the saddest days of my life," said Jago, about the decision by owner Phil Cobb to make a coaching change on Friday.
Jago, 58, was the Sidekicks' coach for the first four years of their existence. He debuted this weekend with a split decision.
The Sidekicks beat Tacoma, 5-4, Friday, but fell to San Diego, 5-1, yesterday.
"I do have mixed emotions," said Jago. "On one hand, I feel very bad for Billy, as I would for any coach who doesn't have success. pTC On the other, I have been away from coaching just long enough to get rejuvenated. There's no question I am excited about being back on the field."
* A CHINAPOO REPRISE: Richard Chinapoo's first two goals Saturday took him back. They were long, powerful shots, reminiscent of his early years with the Blast.
"When I first started playing, I did play like that," said the eight-year veteran. "If you want to call them 'typical Richard Chinapoo goals,' it's OK. They certainly brought back memories."
But his third goal of the night, may have been the best.
It was a short shot in the box. After a triple pump, Chinapoo lofted it over Cleveland goalkeeper Otto Orf for the winning goal in the Blast's 6-5 victory over the Crunch.
It was also Chinapoo's first hat trick since March 27, 1988.
"I don't play for hat tricks," said Chinapoo, 34. "It was my night to come through. As long as someone comes through Wednesday in Cleveland, I'll be happy. With me, it's team first."
The Blast (17-15) remains one game behind Kansas City in the Eastern Division following the Comets' 6-4 win over Wichita yesterday.
The Blast must face Cleveland (13-19) again Wednesday. At Richfield Coliseum, the Crunch has outscored the Blast, 20-5.
"I don't want to sit here and say this win is the start of a winning streak," said Chinapoo. "It's a time to sit down and see what we did right and wrong. There are 20 games left and they're going fast."
* FOR THE RECORD: Blast forward Tim Wittman notched a single-season career high Saturday with his 16th assist . . . Midfielder Billy Ronson's assist on Chinapoo's winning goal gives Ronson 52 points this season, a career-best.
* GOALKEEPERS TAKE STAND: The MSL goalkeepers are waiting for a ruling by arbitrator George Nicolau concerning their rights to individual promotional contracts.
"For many years, goalkeepers were allowed to make a contract with makers of goalkeeper equipment, without interference from the league," said MSL Players Association director John Kerr. "We're asking that keepers who had contracts prior to the agreement with BIKE be allowed to honor them."
Blast keeper Scott Manning, for instance, has been with Ruesch for nine years and is in the middle of a five-year contract.
But this season the league signed an agreement with BIKE to provide all uniforms.
"All we can do is wait for a ruling," Manning said.
* CARPET CAPER: While Arena officials and the Blast have agreed to split the cost for a new $81,000 carpet for the playing field, it is not certain just when that carpet will be put down.
Laying the carpet requires an open week, which the Arena has late in March. But that means the Blast would get only one regular-season game's use out of it, plus however far it goes in the playoffs.
"I think we'll do it," said Blast general manager John Borozzi. "But part of me says, 'Hey, why rush it? Let's do it in the offseason and do it right.' " Borozzi also points out that putting the rug down with one game to play means having to paint two advertising logos on it at a cost of $1,200. Since the ad contracts aren't yet signed for next season it could be a big expense for very little return.