Longtime All-Star goalkeeper Zoltan Toth is hanging up his goalkeeping gloves in St. Louis, leaving the Storm in a bind.
Is former Blast goalkeeper Scott Manning about to make St. Louis coach Don Popovic's day by coming to the Storm's rescue?
"I am talking to Scott and he is high on my list," said Popovic, who expressed great regret at Toth's sudden decision. Popovic said he also is talking to former Kansas City goalkeeper Jim Gorsek.
"I was Zollie's first coach in America, you know," Popovic said last night. "Zollie has done very well for me all these years, and I wish him well. But I thought he should have given me a chance to find another goalkeeper before quitting."
Toth, who will be 32 Dec. 29, is an 11-year Major Soccer League veteran and played for Popovic's four New York Arrows' MSL championship teams from 1980 through 1984.
The Hungarian native then joined the San Diego Sockers for six years, before rejoining Popovic in St. Louis last season.
"My knee hurt constantly on the flight to San Diego last week," said Toth, who had cartilage removed last season. "I made the decision after the San Diego game. There comes a time when money and the game aren't everything. I want to walk and hold my kids without a cane. I can't bend my knee any more and I can't jump."
And yet, Toth, who makes a reported $48,000, refused to give in to the pain in that last game, Oct. 26, in San Diego. He played the entire game, including 8:35 of overtime, presenting the Storm with a 6-5 victory over the Sockers.
Popovic and assistant coach Fernando Clavijo spent two days trying to talk Toth out of retiring, but Popovic said last night "it's over."
With Toth out, the Storm dropped back-to-back games in Dallas (8-3) and Wichita (6-4).
Popovic said he wants the goalkeeper situation settled by Wednesday.
* TOP OF THE GAME: Dallas' Tatu (five goals, three assists) and Kevin Smith (two goals, six assists) have joined Blast forward Domenic Mobilio (five goals, three assists) as the early leaders in the MSL's scoring race, with eight points each.
* DALLAS DOMINATES: The Sidekicks have rolled up a 3-0 record. And, not surprisingly, they also have the league-leading goalkeeper (Joe Papaleo), assist leader (Smith), goal-scoring leader (David Doyle, six) and, as mentioned earlier, point leaders Tatu and Smith). Papaleo is 3-0, with a 2.67 goals-against average. How good is that? Well, Tacoma's Mike Dowler is second with a 4.81 GAA.
* TALENT TRANSFER: St. Louis forward Mirko Castillo, who joined the team from the National Professional Soccer League, has scored in three straight games . . . The Storm's Daryl Doran, an MSL regular since graduating from St. Louis University in 1982, set a team record with 12 blocks Friday, in the Storm's loss at Dallas. He missed the MSL record by two.
* SURPRISE AT THE TOP: Everyone expects the league to shake out to Cleveland (1-1) and St. Louis (1-2). But for the moment, Dallas, which has gone from last to first, and Wichita, 2-0 after upsetting the Storm, are enjoying the view from the top.
* A FIRST: Former Maryland forward Jeff Agoos scored his first MSL goal Friday, contributing to Dallas' 8-3 victory over St. Louis.
* A BRAVE MAN: Wichita's public relations director Dave Phillips doubles as a radio sports talk show host. This summer he was inundated with calls from Atlanta Braves fans.
"I don't know why we have so many, but after a while they were just too much," Phillips said. "I finally told them I wasn't taking any more Braves fans' calls. That there was no way Atlanta was going to win the pennant and if they did, they could shave my head."
L Naturally, the Braves fans have made Phillips keep his word.
+ "It's quite cool," he said.