It might be the first time Blast goalkeeper Scott Manning has fallen behind a Socker and been able to smile about it.
Tied with San Diego keeper Victor Nogueira with one shutout apiece, Manning dropped one back in last night's 4-0 Sockers victory, but gained something much more important -- a Cleveland Crunch loss.
For first-place Cleveland (22-20), 2 1/2 games ahead of the slumping Blast (19-22), it was the first loss in 11 games.
Nogueira's eighth career shutout was his second this season. Only he and Manning have shutouts since the Major Soccer League increased the goals by about 33 percent this season.
The Crunch remained one game ahead of the Kansas City Comets, who lost to the Dallas Sidekicks 4-3.
* WHAT'S NEXT? It's got to be bad when a team can lose a defender because he strains his neck answering the phone in his hotel room. That's what happened in St. Louis Friday, before the Blast lost 5-4. But Joe Barger is expected at practice today, and the Blast's plight may clear up more this evening, when it finds out more about the knee injuries of forward Tim Wittman and defender Mike Reynolds.
Wittman was to undergo arthroscopic surgery on his right knee late this afternoon and Reynolds, who has what is believed to be a ruptured bursa sac on his left knee, was to be examined by team doctors.
Already Angelo Panzetta (knee) is on the disabled list. If Wittman and Reynolds wind up there, the Blast, say MSL rules, will be able to add someone to the roster.
* BURNING COMETS: Kansas City coach Dave Clements decided drastic measures were necessary to change his team's luck recently. He took shaver in hand and off came the viking-like red beard. It evidently has not had the desired impact. His team is now 21-21 following its second straight loss yesterday.
* IN THE COURTS: San Diego midfielder Branko Segota took a flying leap Friday, to block out Kansas City goalkeeper Jim Gorsek. When Segota landed his foot was in Gorsek's left thigh causing a deep bruise. Segota was given a red card, which carries an automatic ejection and $85 fine.
Clements called the play "malicious" and is to deliver game tapes to the league office today. If commissioner Earl Foreman agrees with Clements, Segota could receive an additional fine or suspension.
The punching match in Tacoma that involved Blast midfielder Mike Stankovic and Star Steve Kinsey, in which Stankovic was ejected, is also under review.
* STORMING ALONG: Thompson Usiyan and Preki each had a goal and an assist in the first half as St. Louis took a five-goal lead yesterday, and it held up for a 5-4 victory over Tacoma.
Usiyan got his 56th goal and Preki his 53rd for the Storm, who won their 11th straight game at home. Terry Brown, Emil Dragicevic and Darryl Doran also scored for the Storm (24-16).
The Stars (21-19) got all four of their goals in the fourth quarter from Willie Molano, Nikola Ristic, Eddie Radwanski and Bill Crook.
* NATIONAL GAMES: St. Louis and Cleveland will play indoor games against the U.S. National five-a-side team March 18 and 19, respectively.
The Crunch is calling itself "Kai's All-Stars" and the game is billed as a tribute to former Cleveland player/coach Kai Haaskivi.
Haaskivi's play, after being fired as coach early last month, was one of the reasons for Cleveland's drive from the bottom of the Eastern Division to the top. But Haaskivi, 35, has suffered a major knee injury. Given his age and the seriousness of the injury, there is doubt whether he'll be able to resume his career.
* COACHING FEELER: Blast assistant coach Jim Pollihan says he is not interested in the Maryland Bays coaching job vacated by new UMBC coach Pete Caringi.
"If someone from the Bays approached me, I'd talk to them," Pollihan said. "But I'm not looking for it. I've got every intention of fulfilling my contract with the Blast and helping to get us ready for the playoffs. This is my priority. . . But if there was expansion in the MSL, then I'd have an interest, then I'd do the inquiring."
The MSL may expand to Buffalo and Pittsburgh.
* SOCCER INJURIES: A stadium tunnel collapsed yesterday in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, when fans rushed to the walls to watch soccer players run through. Twenty-six people, including three players, were injured.