If you can't beat 'em, sign 'em.
That's the strategy the Blast is using this season, signing a few San Diego gems while the seven-time Major Soccer League champion Sockers are busy tending to other matters.
First Paul Wright, the fastest man in the MSL, was swiped off waivers, as San Diego sorted out its ownership situation.
Now, while the Sockers' new owners were focused on reaching a two-year deal with coach Ron Newman -- a deal he signed yesterday -- the Blast has signed midfielder Rod Castro.
It is a big blow to the Sockers, who have already lost the league's premier midfielder, Brian Quinn, to the U.S. National team.
"Rod is a proven player with championship experience," said Blast coach Kenny Cooper. "It's that kind of contagious attitude that we feel is of vital importance as we go into the coming season. He can play both midfield and forward and this continues our offseason trend of signing players who have experience and a reputation for a good work ethic."
The Blast has been working hard at putting its roster together, and is well ahead of several other teams, including the Sockers, who have yet to announce even one signing. The Blast's roster now stands at 12.
"We won't be the same team we were," admitted Newman, who does have tentative agreements with goalkeeper Victor Nogueira and defenders Alex Golovnia and David Banks. "But we never are. Every year other teams take bits of us. We're still trying to work something out to get Paul [Wright] back, but Kenny will want an arm and a leg. And Rod, we offered Rod an increase, but his agent said it wasn't enough. He's a good player, a hard worker and he has everything necessary to be very good."
Newman said the new salary cap of $550,000 has put every team in a similar situation. (The Blast made room by releasing highly paid players like Scott Manning, Dale Mitchell and Tim Wittman.) Despite the fact that high-salaried players like Quinn, Wright and Kevin Crow (retired) are not on the Sockers' roster, trying to fit everyone into the cap is not easy.
On top of that, the Sockers are trying to sort out the status of All-Star Branko Segota, who is being wooed by St. Louis. Segota claims he is a free agent, San Diego claims the right of first refusal. Newman said he expects the debate to wind up in arbitration before it's over.
But as far as the Blast and Castro are concerned, there is no debate.
"I think coming to Baltimore will be a good challenge for me," said Castro, 25. "We should have a lot of fun this season. There are new players, like myself, who are starting fresh with the Blast. I'm really excited about how everything is shaping up in Baltimore, and I'm real optimistic about my chances with the Blast."
Castro, a graduate of Indiana University, had 24 goals and 15 assists in 46 games last season, plus six goals and three assists in the playoffs.