After learning that he had been named the Major Soccer League's Defensive Player of the Week for the second straight week, Baltimore Blast goalkeeper Cris Vaccaro proved to be as adept at deflecting praise as he is at deflecting shots on goal.
"I'm only as good as the people in front of me," Vaccaro said yesterday. "We're playing more as a unit all the time, as we become more familiar with one another's play. Awards like this are nice, but they are only a reflection of how we're playing as a whole. If we keep winning, they'll keep coming. I wouldn't mind going for three weeks straight."
Last week, Vaccaro went 2-0 with a total of 26 saves in back-to-back 7-5 victories over Wichita and St. Louis. A week ago he earned the honor with a victory over Cleveland, notching a second-half shutout on the way to a 6-3 victory and leading the team in scoring with a goal and an assist -- the first time in MSL history a goalkeeper had led a team in scoring.
On the offensive side this week, St. Louis midfielder Branko Segota is the star of the week, with six goals, three assists in two games, including the game-winner in a 9-8 overtime victory over Cleveland.
"I'm feeling more comfortable in the net," said Vaccaro, 5-4 with a 4.42 goals-against average. "You have to remember we have 11 new guys on this team. Not only have I had to learn their tendencies, they've had to learn mine and each other's. Right now, we're playing with a lot of confidence and we're playing a lot more intelligently when we get the ball."
In MSL Player of the Month voting, Wichita's Dale Ervine won on offense and San Diego goalkeeper Victor Nogueira was named on defense.
Ervine scored 13 goals, nine assists in seven games to lead the Wings to the fastest start (5-1) in club history. He also set a Wings record with hat tricks in three consecutive games.
Nogueira went 6-1 with a 4.11 goals-against average, facing 139 shots and making 65 saves. His lone loss of the month was Nov. 16 at the Baltimore Arena, when the Blast won, 8-7.