The first question Blast coach Kenny Cooper may have to ask this week is: "Does anyone have hay fever?"
That and other questions are on Cooper's mind today, as he wonders how his indoor soccer team will fare outdoors. He'll get the answer on April 28, when the Major Soccer League's Blast faces the Maryland Bays, the defending champion of the American Professional Soccer League in an exhibition game at UMBC (5:30 p.m.).
"I'm looking forward to it," said Bays owner John Liparini. "It should be fun and it will be a good warmup for our season opener the following week."
This game has been in the works for over the past several months. The details had to wait until the Blast learned whether it would make the Major Soccer League playoffs. Now, everything is set.
"I think this is going to be a lot of fun," said Blast forward Dale Mitchell, who as a member of the Vancouver 86ers last summer played the Bays in the North American Championship game. "I think in that game there was a whole lot more intensity, because we were playing each other for the championship. This is an exhibition, but we'll both want to win."
Mitchell's 86ers won the North American title, 3-2 in overtime. He and Blast teammate Domenic Mobilio, who also played for the 86ers, are staying in town for this game, but it stands to reason the Bays should be in the better shape for an outdoor game.
"They're saying we have the advantage," said Liparini. "But I don't think we have any real advantage. They'll have Mitchell and Mobilio, and Joey Barger [a member of the Bays in the summer and the Blast in the winter] is playing for them. Plus Billy Ronson has outdoor experience and Mike Stankovic played for the Washington Diplomats last season and is an excellent outdoor player."
The Bays at the moment aren't quite sure who will be in their lineup. United States National team member Bruce Murray will not be available, while the status of Desmond Armstrong, Omid Namazi and team leading scorer Phillip Gyau is uncertain because of other outdoor commitments.
"This could be a real festive occasion," said Cooper. "The best outdoor team in the country against one of the best indoor teams. Both of us will want to do well and win."