Rebuilt Blast to get structural test

October 05, 1991|By Bill Free

Kenny Cooper likes to refer to the 1991-92 version of the Baltimore Blast as "the new kids on the block."

These "kids" are going to have to grow up in a hurry to placate Blast fans who still can't believe last season's last-place finish.

Since that 21-31 showing, the club has lost half of the Blast All-Decade team (Bruce Savage, Scott Manning and Tim Wittman) as well as high-scoring Dale Mitchell.

Savage, the Player of the Decade, retired, Manning and Wittman were not re-signed, and Mitchell was released because of his high salary.

Replacing those high-profile players are the likes of goalkeeper Cris Vaccaro, forwards Waad Hirmez and Rod Castro, midfielder Joe Koziol and defenders Iain Fraser, Doug Neely and David Eise.

Other than Vaccaro, the new names do not jump out at anybody.

But Cooper said he believes the newcomers are a hungry and aggressive group who want to make a name for themselves in Baltimore.

They can begin doing that tonight, when the Blast opens its preseason schedule against the Cleveland Crunch at the Richmond (Va.) Coliseum at 7:30.

The high-scoring Crunch, the Cinderella team of the Major Soccer League last season, should provide a good test for the revamped Blast.

Cleveland was trailing Baltimore last season before Trevor Dawkins replaced Kai Haaskivi as coach and took the Crunch to the MSL championship series against the San Diego Sockers.

San Diego won that series in six games, but the struggling Crunch franchise was revived.

Cooper said: "We could have played some other teams in the preseason opener, but we wanted to play Cleveland. We'll find out some things about our new emphasis on defense. Guys like Fraser, Neely and Eise aren't going to be pushed around on defense like we were at times last year."

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