Former San Diego speedster Paul Wright is now officially property of the Blast, but the question is what to do with him.
"We have to look at a number of things," said Blast vice president Drew Forrester. "Would it be a distraction [to the team]? Does Paul really want to be in Baltimore? How would we have to modify our roster?"
All those questions crystallized yesterday, when arbitrator George Nicolau denied the Major Soccer League Players' Union request to make Wright a free agent. Nicolau also said the Blast does not have to pay Wright for the time he has missed in training camp, from Sept. 15 until the day he passes the Blast physical.
Nicolau did rule in Wright's favor on the issue of money owed from the time the team picked up his contract off waivers July 1 until Sept. 15.
That means the Blast must pay Wright approximately $12,500, despite the fact he was working San Diego Sockers camps and being paid by the Sockers for the same time that the Blast owned his contract.
"The camps were a separate deal," said Wright. "I don't see that as being a conflict and neither did the arbitrator."
"I know what he says, and I know what the arbitrator ruled and we're bound by that," said Forrester. "But he was our property July 1, and for him to insist on staying in San Diego and working Sockers camps and to be paid by the Sockers. . . well, there is no way that's right and in our heart we know it."
Nicolau further ruled the Blast must send Wright an airplane ticket in time for him to join the team in Wichita for tomorrow's game.
Blast and Sockers officials worked into the night, trying to make a deal to send Wright back to San Diego or to another team for cash considerations.
San Diego vice president Randy Bernstein said discussions centered on financial consideration and possible draft picks.
"There's no question we have a great interest in Paul," Bernstein said. "He means a lot to us, especially with the loss of Branko Segota to St. Louis and Rod Castro and Waad Hirmez to Baltimore. We'll do whatever we can to put an aggressive team on the floor."
Meanwhile, Wright sounded happy to be joining Baltimore. "Unless I hear from them saying I'm going somewhere else, I expect to be with the Blast," he said from his San Diego home.
"And I can't wait to get there and win another championship. I'm really looking forward to it. The Blast has some of my old San Diego teammates, plus they've got a lot of other good guys, too."
The possible arrival of Wright complicates things. The Blast roster is already set at the maximum 16 players. To add Wright, the Blast must find room, physically and financially.
"We'd have to move at least one player and possibly make other modifications," said Forrester. "We have to look at all the sides of this and make a rational decision."
Complicating the issue are at least two things:
* Wright is an extraordinarily fast player who has superstar prospects. Last season, he scored 38 goals and 23 assists.
* To send Wright back to San Diego would play into the Sockers' hands and virtually give Wright everything he has wanted from the start -- his money and to stay with the Sockers -- a situation that Forrester admits would be hard to swallow.
"Hopefully, the guys on that team who know me would explain how I am to others on the team," said Wright, 22. "I hope there are no hard feelings. It wasn't my fault. I was entitled to my money."