Blast fans aren't fond of Wichita Wing Chico Borja.
They picture him doing everything in his power to beat the Blast, right down to pushing, shoving and kicking. Past injuries to forward Tim Wittman and goalkeeper Scott Manning have been laid at his soccer shoes.
Around here, Chico Borja is perceived as a "dirty" player.
But one of the best pictures of Borja, and one of total contrast, came during the Major Soccer League All-Star Game last month.
As a member of the East team under the direction of Blast coach Kenny Cooper, Borja scored five points and combined with Blast veterans Billy Ronson, Manning, Dale Mitchell and Domenic Mobilio to earn the victory.
After scoring the winning goal in overtime, Borja, 31, dropped to his knees and literally beat his head on the playing carpet, while his teammates danced around him.
"I think my performance in that game helped my reputation," he said yesterday, before the Wings were crunched by Cleveland, 10-2. "I think it was about time I showed I still have the legs, the talent and ability to be an All-Star MVP. I played only my position. I played it simple and it was good. I know it helps how people perceive me as a player. But as a person, I don't think anyone knows me."
The Blast and its fans will have mn their next chance to get to know Borja and the Wings tomorrow, 8:05 p.m., at the Arena.
It is the first of two weekend games for the Blast, as the Western Division-leading San Diego Sockers come to town Saturday, 2:35 p.m.
The Wings, troubled by more injuries than even the Blast this season, have responded well to the coaching of Roy Turner, who returned to the job after Terry Nicholl resigned last month. The Wings have won four of their last seven games. Despite the odds, and a 4 1/2 -game discrepancy in the standings, Turner believes his team is ready to give the Blast a run for the last playoff spot in the Eastern Division.
"I'm going to sound like Kenny now," said Turner, referring to his coaching peer. "But if you can't dream any more, what's the use of playing the game? If you were a betting man, there might not be any odds on us, but while we've got a chance, my guys will battle for it."
And one of the battling Wings is Borja. Turner said his All-Star forward, in fact his entire team, was helped by the All-Star Game.
"It was a highlight for a lot of people who had nothing to cheer about," he said. "And for Chico, who beneath it all believes he is an entertainer, it restored to him some confidence. I think it is a reason why he is very, very sharp right now."
Shut out last night, Borja has scored in 13 of the team's last 15 games. He is completely recovered from a shoulder injury that slowed him in January and ready to face the Arena crowd.
Turner defends his player against the "Bad Boy" wrap.
"I think the Blast and their fans would like Chico just fine in a Blast shirt," Turner said. "He wants to win and there is no crime in that. Sometimes he does get so wrapped up into a game [that] a side of him no one likes, including himself, comes out. But having said that, I think the things that have occurred in Baltimore have been blown way out of proportion."
Borja said there have been times when he has reacted poorly in situations here.
"I've done some things that have hurt my reputation in Baltimore," said Borja. "But I've not gone out there intentionally thinking to do them. I react in a game. That's what people pay for, to see the human reaction. And my reactions are honest. It has nothing to do with being Latin. It is simply the game. You get kicked, what do you do? You get up and kick back.
"My feeling, and it has always been my feeling, is that I will do everything I can to win."