Since suffering a torn knee ligament that forced him to miss half of last season, Baltimore Blast defenseman Angelo Panzetta has endured a grueling rehabilitation while looking forward to a comeback this season.
Yesterday, he said his leg was fit -- but he found himself without a team to prove it.
In its latest move in a busy off-season, the Blast yesterday cut Panzetta, leaving the team with just five players from last season's roster. Coach Kenny Cooper said the decision was based on the team composition, which would have deprived Panzetta of the playing time to make a complete comeback.
"With the team that we put together, he would not immediately be put into the starting lineup," Cooper said. "To develop his own career, he needs to play. We've got quite a few players that are interchangeable, and Angelo's primarily a defensive player."
Panzetta said he knew it would be a battle for a spot on the team, but he still was surprised at the decision, which came less than two weeks before the regular season.
"I was kind of shocked," Panzetta said last night. "I knew therwere a lot of defenders in camp, and I was wondering what their plans were with me. It surprised me, because I feel confident and I don't even think about my leg when I'm out there. I wonder whether they had me in camp just as a courtesy."
In addition to the torn anterior cruciate ligament in the left knee -- the same injury that had sidelined Washington Bullets forward Bernard King when he was with the New York Knicks -- Panzetta also suffered a torn lateral meniscus.
"I thought I had speed enough to move and help the team," Panzetta said. "Apparently, they feel they have enough speed now that I won't have to be in the picture."
Cooper said the Blast has contacted the Harrisburg, Pa., team in the National Professional Soccer League about picking up Panzetta.
"I'd like to have him stay in the game," Cooper said. "He's young enough to come back to Baltimore."
Panzetta said he was unsure what he would do.
NOTES: The move drops the Blast roster to 15, one under the league minimum. With the completed rosters due to the league by midnight tonight, the Blast is expected today to sign Doug Miller, a former midfielder at Loyola College. . . . Joe Mallia, a free-agent goalkeeper from Old Dominion, probably will be named to the team's developmental roster.