Exhibition games are usually experimental undertakings to get ready for the coming season. For the Blast, which will take on Cleveland tomorrow in the Richmond Coliseum as the Major Soccer League shows its stuff in Virginia, only half of that is true.
"We're not going there to experiment," said Blast coach Kenny Cooper. "We're going there to get a result. The main purpose is to re-establish ourselves. Last year, Cleveland felt it could beat us every time before they stepped on the floor. We want to change that immediately."
A year ago, Cleveland used a three-gun offensive attack -- Zoran Karic, Hector Marinaro and Michael King -- to win the MSL's Eastern Division. Along the way, the Crunch dominated the Blast, winning five of eight games.
This season, the Crunch returns intact, unlike the Blast, which made wholesale changes. Cleveland coach Trevor Dawkins is expected to use the game simply to fine-tune what worked so well a year ago.
"We know they can score in bunches and we know they are strong in the goal and on defense," said Cooper. "But we feel we can put the ball in the back of the net, too. We don't have a Karic, but we've got energy and enthusiasm and we think our goals will come from team involvement. That's how it has been in practice."
Cooper already knows he has a solid line in target-man Rusty Troy, forward Billy Ronson and midfielder Mark Mettrick. Backing them up at the defender positions will be Doug Neely and Iain Fraser, though Fraser, who has an abdominal strain, may not play.
The other line, however, will be totally new to the Blast. Former San Diego Socker Rod Castro will play the target position, Kevin Sloan, the outdoor star with the Bays, will be at the other forward, and powerful Waad Hirmez, also came here from San Diego, will be at midfield. Emil Dragicevic, David Eise and Kris Kelderman will share time at the defender spots.
The game could not come too soon for the Blast players, who have been in training camp three weeks, a week longer than any other MSL team.
Cooper said he also wants to see midfielder Doug Miller and goalkeeper Joe Mallia, but his first priority is letting the Crunch know the Blast won't be a walk-over this season.