The Baltimore Blast not only lost the season opener to the Dallas Sidekicks Saturday night at the Baltimore Arena, but touched off some controversy with Tatu.
The Dallas Sidekicks forward, the Major Soccer League's leading scorer the past two seasons, reacted bitterly to charges by two Blast players that he purposely "dives" to prompt referees to call penalties against opposing players.
"It's getting old," said Tatu after a 7-3 Sidekicks victory before 11,154. "That kind of statement doesn't even deserve an answer. If they say I'm diving, I feel very sorry for them. It's a poor excuse. I'm tired of hearing it."
Tatu, who had two goals Saturday night, said he worked hard all summer to get ready for the season opener and was hurt by the charges that were made by the Blast's new midfielder, Rod Castro, and veteran defender Mike Stankovic.
"If they can't respect me like I respect them, that's a very sorry situation," said Tatu. "I was just out there trying to help my team win a game, and I'm sure they wanted to do the same thing."
Castro said: "Tatu does a great job of diving, and the refs believe him. They called five penalties on us and none on Dallas. That doesn't seem right when both teams are out there playing hard and hitting each other a lot."
The five penalties against Baltimore gave Dallas 10 minutes of extra-man opportunities and resulted in three power plays.
"I don't care if you're San Diego [seven-time Major Soccer League champion], you're not going to win when the other team has 10 minutes of power plays," said Castro, who played for the Sockers last season.
Stankovic said that Tatu "falls down and takes a lot of hits" that result in penalties for opposing players.
"That's the way he plays, and it works," said Stankovic.
Tatu said that Castro, in his third MSL season, was too new to the league to be criticizing him.
"Castro hasn't been around long enough to say that stuff," said Tatu, who had 78 goals and 66 assists in 52 games last season. "But if a veteran defender like Mike Stankovic or someone like Iain Fraser [Blast defender, in his sixth year in the league] says it, I can respect it more even if I don't agree with it."
Late in Saturday night's game, Tatu also became involved in a heated discussion with Blast midfielder Billy Ronson, who was playing sixth attacker at the time.
Tatu said he was telling Ronson that the Blast had no right to be driving young Sidekicks defender Troy Snyder into the boards with three minutes left and Dallas leading, 6-2.
"Troy Snyder has a family to think about and doesn't need to get hurt when the outcome has already been determined," said Tatu. "Billy told me to stop pointing fingers at people. I didn't name any names, I just pointed towards some of his teammates."
Tatu hesitated a moment and said: "I know no one would purposely drive a guy into the boards if they would just stop and think about it for a second."
Ronson didn't want to talk about the confrontation with Tatu.
"It's all part of the game," said Ronson.
The game itself was a re-run of many of the 31 losses for the Blast last season.
Baltimore did most of the shooting (42-20 margin in shots), but Dallas did most of the scoring.
Forward David Doyle had a hat trick before the third quarter ended, giving Dallas a 4-1 lead that proved to be enough for the victory even though the sixth-attacker Blast offense produced two Domenic Mobilio goals in the fourth quarter.
NOTES: Castro suffered a medial collateral ligament sprain of his left knee Saturday night and might miss this weekend's two games (Friday night at the Wichita Wings and Sunday against the Tacomas Stars at the Baltimore Arena). . . . In a pre-game ceremony Saturday night, 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. Reynolds died of a massive stroke July 1.