What's the difference between being 1-4 and on a four-game winning steak?
"Ah, could you make the question a little harder," chirped Blast midfielder Billy Ronson. "The difference? Well, for us to go 1-5 would have been beyond belief. But the difference? For the first time in a long time, since I've been here, everyone is together and working for each other. No one cares about the stats as long as we win."
For the first time since the 1989-90 season, the Blast is on a four-game winning streak following Saturday's 7-5 victory over St. Louis. And it's 5-4 record has the team only one game out of first place.
* CROWDS UP, UP, UP: Major Soccer League crowds are up 10 percent or more compared to the same point last season in four MSL cities.
* Baltimore, 10 percent to 7,680.
* St. Louis, 19 percent to 8,157.
* San Diego, 21 percent to 10,703.
* Wichita, 23 percent to 8,191.
In San Diego, the Sockers have drawn three consecutive crowds of 10,000 or more for only the second time in their history (the first time being the 1985-86 season), and the team's general manager Randy Bernstein says he anticipates the next two games to over the 10,000 mark as well.
Here, Blast vice president Drew Forrester said crowds ranging from 8,000 to 10,000 are expected for three of the team's next four December home games.
* ONE-GOAL VIRUS: Cleveland Crunch coach Trevor Dawkins' jobmay be on the line this week, after back-to-back one-goal losses last weekend. The Crunch has lost five one-goal games and is in last place with a 2-7 record. Dawkins is expected to have a meeting with Cleveland owner George Hoffman and general manager Al Miller early this week.
The Crunch lost to St. Louis, 9-8 in overtime Friday, and then fell 8-7 in Tacoma Saturday. Cleveland obviously misses Bernie James and Mike Sweeney, both of whom have been among the toughest defenders in the league for years. Neither was invited back this season, because of the locker room turmoil they were known to stir. In their absence, the Crunch has allowed 60 goals in nine games.
* A NEW HOME: Former Blast Waad Hirmez was back at the Baltimore Arena Saturday, newly signed by the St. Louis Storm. Hirmez had one assist in the game. But the most interesting thing about his return was the reception he received during introductions.
Blast fans are notorious for their loyalty to former players who return with other teams after being ousted by local management. Hirmez's return was different. It may have been the first time a player returned to more boos than cheers. But the good-natured midfielder blew them kisses anyway.
* BEST OF THE BEST: St. Louis midfielder Preki has taken over the MSL scoring lead, producing 12 goals, 15 assists for 27 points. Wichita's Dale Ervine (14-11-25) is second and Preki's St. Louis teammate Branko Segota (14-9-23) is third.
On the goal-scoring list, the Blast's Domenic Mobilio, Ervine and Segota are tied with 14 goals each.
San Diego's Victor Nogueira has taken over the goalkeeping lead from Dallas' Joe Papaleo. Nogueira is 6-3 with a 4.50 goals-against average, while Papaleo is 6-3 with a 4.86 GAA after Dallas' 6-4 win over Tacoma last night.
* MSL-LANIA: Kai Haaskivi is settling in in Cleveland, producing six points in two games . . . St. Louis is scoring a hot 82.4 percent (14 of 17) on power-play opportunities . . .
The Storm, besides signing Hirmez for the rest of the season and releasing Mirko Castillo, also extended goalkeeper Jim Gorsek's 15-day contract for the rest of the season . . .
Blast forward Jean Harbor produced his first goal Saturday, giving him three points in three games . . . Tacoma's Shawn Medved was goal-less until Saturday, when he scored four against the Crunch . . . San Diego got five goals from Paul Wright in an 8-2 romp over Dallas Saturday. Former Blast keeper Hank Henry took the loss.