Scott Manning had to tend a goal nearly twice the size of the one he's used to filling.
His teammates, accustomed to line shifts and a 60-minute game played on an ice hockey-sized field, had to deal with a 90-minute haul over the standard 75- by 120-yard field.
There were plenty of adjustments to be made for the friendly match with the Maryland Bays at UMBC Stadium yesterday, but the biggest was by the pro-Blast crowd of 3,480 spectators, who didn't get their normal ration of goals. The Bays' 2-0 exhibition victory was the first time the Blast had been shut out since March 14, 1986, when it dropped a 1-0 decision at St. Louis.
Granted, indoor shutouts are a rarity and outdoor zeros are commonplace, but the Blast had more than enough chances on what was foreign turf.
"We created chances and we had many opportunities to score, but we just couldn't get the ball in the back of the net," said Jim Pollihan, filling in for ailing Blast coach Kenny Cooper. "It was very reminiscent of our season."
The Blast are three weeks past a disappointing season in which they failed to make the Major Soccer League playoffs for the first time in the franchise's history. The Bays are the defending champions of the American Professional Soccer League, and while Gary Hindley is their third coach in as many seasons, they've still got Jean Harbor.
A 25-year-old from Nigeria who played at Alabama A&M, Harbor was too much even for his own team's best marking defender. Joe Barger, a Bays veteran at age 23, spent the winter with the Blast, and it was agreed that he would stay with the indoor team for yesterday's game.
He sent Harbor down at least three times, but Harbor had the only numbers that counted. He assisted newcomer Brian Haynes at the 23:08 mark, fending off Barger and sending a short cross to Haynes on the left post. Fifteen minutes into the second half, Harbor headed in a Johnny Abe corner kick.
Harbor did it all on a lousy night's sleep.
He and George Gelnovatch, a former University of Virginia standout, had spent the four previous days in Knoxville, Tenn. Both went the whole way as a team of APSL all-stars beat Linfield F.C. of Northern Ireland, 1-0, and they didn't jet in to Washington National until 9:30 a.m. yesterday.
"I told Jean I was trying to get him in shape for this season," Barger said. "I didn't need to see what he did tonight to know he was a great player, but we didn't prepare just for him. I told the guys on the Blast to prepare for the way the Bays come at you. When they get the ball, they go."
Both sides were missing key players for assorted reasons, and the Blast only saw one-half of the Bays' record-setting goal machine.
Phillip Gyau, the MVP of 1990, is playing in Belgium. Hindley hopes he's in tow for Saturday's (7:35 p.m.) APSL opener against the Penn-Jersey Spirit in Trenton, but there are 13 other returnees, and World Cup veterans Desmond Armstrong and Bruce Murray on the roster. The Bays are training three evenings a week at Howard Community College.
The Blast players finally get to disband after one more frustrating evening, as they had a 16-6 shot advantage in the second half alone. Several good chances came midway through the half. Billy Ronson was stopped from 10 yards by Bays goalie Charlie Arndt, Dale Mitchell sent the rebound off the right post, and Domenic Mobilio's handling of that rebound was cleared off the goal line by Sam Mangione.
Chris Reif, the Bays' steady back who passed on the all-star game in Knoxville, had another goal-line stop that left the Blast players shaking their heads: He blocked with his chest Dominic Feltham's shot with 12 minutes left.
Manning, meanwhile, surprised himself at the other end. While 10 Blast players worked outdoors in 1989 or '90 and many are preparing for another APSL season, Manning last tended a regulation goal in 1983, for the Carolina Lightnin'. Yesterday he guessed right and stopped Omid Namazi's penalty kick in the 13th minute, one of his four saves.
"It's been eight years since I played outdoors, and it seems like 20," Manning said. "The second goal was a great example of the adjustments I had to make. I didn't get the jump on the corner kick. After a steady week of handling crosses, I could handle that, but I wasn't ready for it today."