Nine new Baltimore Blast players were in uniform, but the Major Soccer League season opener last night looked much like the 31 losses from last season.
Baltimore did most of the shooting, but the Dallas Sidekicks did most of the scoring, taking a 7-3 victory at Baltimore Arena before 11,154 fans who had come out to see what this new-look Blast team was all about.
All they witnessed was a disappointing performance, seeing the home team lose despite taking an incredible 42 shots to 20 for the Sidekicks.
Dallas forward David Doyle scored a hat trick, and Tatu added two goals. It was a satisfying performance for Doyle, who joined Dallas this season after the Kansas City Comets ceased operation last summer.
Doyle played in 15 games last season, as he tried to come back from a broken leg that he suffered in May 1990.
Doyle had his three goals before the end of the third quarter, sparking the Sidekicks to a 4-1 lead that proved to be enough to win in a matchup of teams that finished last in their divisions last season.
Much of the Blast's downfall came from penalties, setting up five power plays for Dallas. The Sidekicks converted three of them for goals.
"I don't care if you're San Diego, you're going to lose if you give the other team 10 minutes of power plays [two minutes for each penalty]," Blast forward Rod Castro said.
Blast midfielder Waad Hirmez said the five penalties came from lack of discipline.
"That's what kills you," he said. "It especially hurts when a veteran draws bad penalties. That's a bad example for the younger players."
Mike Stankovic, starting his 11th season in the league, drew the first two of the five penalties for Baltimore. Dallas scored off the second Stankovic penalty to tie the game 1-1 early in the second quarter. That seemed to turn the momentum in favor of the Sidekicks.
Stankovic said he had no real excuse on the second penalty [holding] but said the first penalty [tripping] was not his fault.
"I tried to stop a Dallas fast break, but obviously I got there too late," Stankovic said of the first call. "On the second penalty, I was trying to play the ball off the board and got called for holding somebody. We had a lot of intensity, and that might have resulted in some of the penalties."
Blast coach Kenny Cooper said the penalties came from being overanxious in a poor overall performance by the Blast.
"No one stood out for us," Cooper said. "The highlights were the introduction and the sixth attacker."
Billy Ronson came in as sixth attacker at 3:40 of the fourth quarter and Blast trailing, 6-1.
Tatu said the Sidekicks worked their plan to perfection.
"We knew the Blast would be emotional playing at home in the opener," he said. "So we just laid back and waited for our chances. We just wanted to keep it close, and we did that early when they were getting all the chances."
The rerun of last season for the Blast had the likes of Mark Mettrick, Hirmez, Stankovic and Ronson coming up empty time after time on shots. Those four players took a total of 24 shots without getting a goal.
Baltimore got two goals from Domenic Mobilio and one from Rusty Troy.
Troy scored on a three-on-two break in the first quarter for a 1-0 lead. Troy faked, as if he were going to pass the ball to Mettrick on the left wing, but shot the ball from 50 feet for the score.
It was about the only thing the Blast had to cheer about. When the night was over, Cooper and his players were talking about getting a second chance to prove themselves.
"This was a massive game for us," Ronson said. "We gave us three power-play goals and one empty-net goal. I think we showed more heart than last year, but the results didn't show it."
NOTES: In a pre-game ceremony, the Blast retired D Mike Reynolds' No. 3. Photos of Reynolds were flashed on a big screen on the stage while his accomplishments were read by public address announcer Bill Rothe.