Baltimore soccer history will be made Sunday at the University of Maryland Baltimore County.
The Baltimore Blast will play its first outdoor game in the 11-year history of the franchise, meeting the Maryland Bays, the defending American Professional Soccer League champions, at 5:30 p.m.
It's a game born in the streets and bars in East Baltimore, where soccer fanatics have argued for the past three years about who would win a confrontation between the professional Blast and the semipro Bays.
The theme in those heated debates has been who is better, the "American" soccer players among the Bays or the "foreign" players among the Blast.
The entire Bays roster last season was made up of players who were born or attended college in Maryland. Only three of 15 Bays players were not American citizens.
By comparison, the 1990-91 Blast roster of 19 players included nine born in the United States.
The soccer fans in East Baltimore feel they've been jilted twice by the game they love.
The first time was in the early 1970s by the Baltimore Bays and the North American Soccer League, which barely gave a chance to Baltimore-born standouts Dale Rothe, Pete Caringi, Gino Pennacchia, Tommy Wall, Hank Kazmierski, Charlie Myers, Pete Notaro and John Borozzi.
And they were disappointed a second time by the Baltimore Blast and the Major Indoor Soccer League in the 1980s.
Baltimoreans Sonny Askew and Borozzi had only one-year trials with the Blast, and Baltimore's Chris Reif wasn't picked up by any MSL team after the Cleveland Force drafted him in 1988 but folded a few months later.
Baltimore's Nick Mangione was released by the Blast in 1984 after four seasons, creating quite a stir, but Reif did sign a 15-day contract with the Blast last season.
Blast owner Ed Hale, who has owned the team for two years, said yesterday: "We made a mistake in the last couple of years not giving local players a chance. That's going to change. I want to put together a taxi squad of players from Baltimore and have them go around and play other outstanding amateur indoor teams in the country."
Hale has said he wants Reif in the Blast picture next season, and he said yesterday that he will give Bays stars Philip Gyau, Jean Harbor and Steve Powers "a look" next season.
Bays owner John Liparini said he can understand the frustration felt by the people in East Baltimore.
"I've been around the world and watched soccer players, and I don't see that much difference between American and foreign players," said Liparini. "It just hasn't been in the interest of the English coaches or the Yugoslavian coaches [most coaches in the NASL were foreigners] in the past to use our players."
Liparini praised Hale for trying to promote the cause of local players.
Last summer, when Caringi coached the Bays to the APSL title with Reif and fellow Baltimoreans Jeff "Goose" Nattans, John Abe and Joe Barger playing major roles, the soccer fans in East Baltimore said, "I told you so."
Sunday's game should provide more fuel for their debate.
Members of the Blast who have played for the Maryland Bays:
Player.. .. .. .. .. .. Blast.. .. .. .. ..Bays
.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. years. .. .. .. ..years
D Desmond Armstrong .. '88-89.. .. .. .. . 1991
D Joe Barger.. .. .. 1989-91.. .. .. . 1990-91
F Mike Brady.. .. .. 1986-88.. .. .. .. . 1991
D Richard Chinapoo.. .1983-88.. .. .. .. . 1989
.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .1990-91
F Drago.. .. .. .. .. 1986-88.. .. .. .. . 1989
D John Karpovich.. .. 1988-89.. .. .. .. . 1988
M David Nakhid.. .. . 1987-88.. .. .. .. . 1989
D Chris Reif.. .. .. 1990-91.. .. .. ..1988-91
M Rob Ryerson.. .. .. 1986-87.. .. .. . 1988-91
D Vernon Skinner.. ...1986-88.. .. .. .. . 1988
Blast vs. Bays
Where: UMBC Stadium
When: Sunday, 5:30 p.m.
Tickets: $8.50 (adult), $5.50 (under 16), can be purchased at the gate, all Ticketron locations, the Baltimore Arena box office, all Hecht Company stores and can be charged by calling 481-6000.
Significance: First game between Blast and Bays.
Clinic: Anyone younger than 16 who purchases a ticket can take part in a soccer clinic conducted by Blast-Bays players from 4-5 p.m.
Top players: F Domenic Mobilio, F Dale Mitchell, M Billy Ronson, G Scott Manning for the Blast; F Jean Harbor, G Steve Powers, M Omid Namazi, D John Abe for the Bays.