Cris Vaccaro said all traces of fear were removed yesterday in practice at Myers Pavilion when he stepped into the goal for the first time since being knocked unconscious by a shot seven days ago.
"The hardest part is the mental thing, and I felt OK that way," said Vaccaro, who was hit by a shot from the Cleveland Crunch's Dave Hoggan. "I wasn't scared at all. There were no scars from being hit in Cleveland."
Although his mind is clear, Vaccaro said his body still was hurting from Hoggan's 15-foot shot that struck his face and sent him to the carpet for 15 minutes before he was removed on a stretcher for further observation at Marymount Hospital in Cleveland. All tests for head injuries were negative, and Vaccaro escaped with a strained neck.
"There is still pain in my neck, and I got headaches being out there in the goal," said Vaccaro, who will not return tonight to the scene of the scary incident for an 8:05 rematch against the Crunch. "I'm not ready to play. I don't want to hurt the team. It wouldn't be fair to the team or myself. I've only missed 15 games in my 12 years. So for me to miss a game, it takes a lot."
Vaccaro did say there is a chance he will play tomorrow night against the Wichita Wings at the Baltimore Arena at 7:35.
"I'll come in Saturday [tomorrow] morning and work out with Kenny [Cooper, Blast coach] and see how I feel," said Vaccaro. "I've said all along it is a day-to-day thing. I want to go out there and play, but I have to be smart about it and not take any chances."
Cooper said early yesterday that he would take Vaccaro and backup goalkeeper Steve Powers to Cleveland tonight and then make a decision before the game about whether Vaccaro would play. But Vaccaro later told Cooper that he was not ready to play against the Crunch.
Powers will get his second straight start for the Blast since being signed to a 15-day contract six days ago.
Cooper had said Wednesday that Vaccaro's returning to the goal after the severe injury scare was "like a driver returning to a car after an accident. The sooner you do it, the better. Cris is a pro. He'll go back into the goal without any fear."
Yesterday, Cooper said: "Cris needs more time. In his mind, he wants to get ready for Wichita. Steve [Powers] knows what to do. He is fired up and ready for a second chance out there. This will give him two days to prepare mentally for starting. That will help."
Cooper said the Blast had adjusted this week in practice to take full advantage of Powers' talents in the goal.
"We're going to do some things to take pressure off Steve," said Cooper. "We won't knock the ball back to him in pressure situations. We hope to allow him to use his strong arm more in this game than we did last week [a 7-5 setback to the Dallas Sidekicks in Powers' first MSL game]."
Powers said he prepared all week as if he were going to start.
"I'm mentally ready," said Powers, who had only 19 1/2 hours to get ready for his debut last week. "And I've worked on positioning and set plays this week. I'll be looking to do more long throws to stretch out Cleveland instead of rolling the ball out on short passes like I did last week. That allowed Dallas to keep the pressure on me."
Powers said he has no psychological scars left from the opening-game loss.
"I made some good saves," said Powers. "It was a tough situation. Now I just have to challenge myself to do better in this game."
Opponent: Cleveland Crunch
Site: Richfield Coliseum, 8:05
Radio: WCAO (600 AM)
Outlook: The Blast will be looking for its fifth straight road win, a turnaround from last season when the team won only 1 game on the road after Jan. 4. Baltimore made it 4 straight last Friday at Richfield Coliseum, whenF. Domenic Mobilio scored 1:57 into overtime to give the Blast an 8-7 victory. M Billy Ronson played the final 7:16 of the fourth quarter and all of the overtime in goal to lead a rally from 3 goals down. Ronson missed yesterday's practice with a case of the flu but will play tonight. Cleveland trails the season series, 2-1, winning its only game at the Baltimore Arena on Dec. 6 behind 4 goals by F Michael King. Cleveland reports no injuries.