Don't look for Billy Ronson to be doing any cartwheels around the San Diego Sports Arena tonight.
Ronson, who has been the Baltimore Blast's leading scorer most of the season, has been asked by coach Kenny Cooper to accept a more limited offensive role on the team beginning with tonight's 10:35 encounter with the San Diego Sockers.
"Billy will be more of a passer than a shooter and hold the ball," said Cooper who continues to search for ways to turn around the 19-22 Blast which has lost its last four games and its last eight on the road. "Right now we need him to do that. We have to go back to basics and one of the keys to that is in the midfield. We have to play possession soccer."
This decision by Cooper will most likely end any hopes Ronson (33 goals, 30 assists) had of leading the slumping Blast in scoring.
Ronson easily is having his best offensive season in five years with Baltimore and is tied with Dale Mitchell (32 goals, 31 assists) for the scoring lead.
"Something has to change and as usual it's me," said a disappointed Ronson last night from San Diego. "I knew it [reduced offensive role] was coming when we started losing. Things like this usually fall on my shoulder. I spent my first three years fetching and carrying the ball to the other players and [was criticized] for it."
Ronson then became a scorer two years ago and has continued in that role this season, earning his first trip to the Major Soccer League All-Star Game.
When questioned why he was asked to change roles, Ronson said: "Maybe nobody else can do it. What he's saying is he needs me to set up the offense instead of being the offense. As long as I'm appreciated, I don't mind doing it. The bottom line is making the playoffs and winning a championship."
Ronson said his new role would also include playing more defense than in the past.
"It won't be hard to adjust since I started out here playing that way," said Ronson whose five hat tricks this season place him among the top eight in the MSL.
Cooper said he is asking Ronson to take on the less glamorous role because "he was good at it when he first came here and now we need him to do it again."
NOTES: Tim Wittman (left knee surgery), Joe Barger (severely strained neck) and Angelo Panzetta (reconstructive knee surgery) have been placed on the disabled list for five games. That move was necessitated when the club signed former Calvert Hall star defender Chris Reif to a 15-day contract Thursday.
Opponent: San Diego Sockers
Site: San Diego Sports Arena, 10:35 p.m.
Radio: WCAO (600 AM)
TV: Tape delay on HTS tomorrow, 4:05 p.m.
Outlook: San Diego already has clinched the seven-game regular-season series, leading 4-1. Baltimore's only victory came in San Diego Nov. 15 when MF Billy Ronson's goal 5:33 into overtime gave the Blast a 5-4 decision. Baltimore has lost eight straight on the road and its last four in a row. The Sockers have won eight of their last 11 games and lead the Western Division by 1 1/2 games over the St. Louis Storm. Baltimore will play tonight without MF Tim Wittman (left knee surgery), D Mike Reynolds (ruptured bursa sac in left knee) and MF Joe Barger (severe neck strain).