"If I could stay 21 all my life, I'd keep playing," said 24-year-old defender Joe Barger, who has parted company with the Blast.
Barger, a Loyola College graduate, played two seasons here, but he and Blast vice president Drew Forrester could not agree on a new contract.
"We couldn't give him what he needs financially," said Forrester. "Based on the current salary cap requirements, the money just isn't there. We parted on good terms."
Sources said Barger asked for a salary in the $30,000 to $35,000 range, but the Blast was unable to offer more than the mid-twenties.
Also yesterday, the Blast signed defender Emil Dragicevic to a one-year contract.
Dragicevic, 30, a two-year veteran of the Major Soccer League, played for First Division Dinamo in his native Zagreb, Yugoslavia, for four years before joining St. Louis for the 1989-1990 season.
"Emil fits the mold of player we're looking for," Forrester said. "He's a hard worker with good skills who can play both a defensive and midfield position. He comes highly recommended [player/assistant coach] Mike Stankovic, who has watched him play both in St. Louis and in Yugoslavia in recent years."
Forrester said the signing of Dragicevic didn't affect the negotiations with Barger.
Currently a member of the American Professional Soccer League's Maryland Bays, Barger bought a home here last winter and has worked part time for the Morgan Financial Group since joining the Blast in 1989 as a free agent.
"Soccer has been very good to me," Barger said. "It got me a free education and it paid my salary for several years. But now it's time to get into the business world and [Blast owner] Ed Hale is actually helping me do that . . . I feel the league is so shaky at this point, that I don't want to find myself in a situation where the league might fold and I'd be forced to make a frantic search for a new job.
"I'd rather do it this way. I had a good time playing, but now I'm excited about what the future holds."