Ailing Stankovic confident his life will be blast again

December 23, 1991|By Bill Free | Bill Free,Evening Sun Staff

Veteran Blast midfielder Mike Stankovic spent yesterday watching NFL games on television and preparing himself mentally for today's arthroscopic knee surgery that could determine his future in the game.

As Stankovic, 35, faces the 3:30 surgery on his right knee to ascertain the extent of ligament damage, the popular Blast player might be looking at the end of his 11-year career in the Major Soccer League.

Stankovic and Blast trainer Marty McGinty both said yesterday that he has a torn medial collateral ligament that would put him out of action six to eight weeks. But McGinty said Stankovic also may have a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

That would require major reconstructive surgery, sidelining Stankovic the rest of the season and threatening his career.

No athlete likes to talk about the end of his career due to an injury, but Stankovic spoke candidly about it after he was hurt in Saturday night's 3-2 loss to the first-place Wichita Wings (9-4) before 5,459 at the Baltimore Arena.

"This injury came at the wrong time," said Stankovic after the game. "But even if I never play again, I can't look back with any regrets because I've had a great career in Baltimore and had a lot of fun playing the game."

Stankovic said he would make no predictions on when he would return until after the surgery, but he insisted he would play again even if it were an anterior cruciate tear.

"I know for sure I can come back. Kai Haaskivi [a former Blast veteran who now plays for the Cleveland Crunch] had the same injury last year and he is back playing now," said Stankovic. "It's disappointing, but it's part of the job.

McGinty also expressed optimism that Stankovic would play again even if the damage is a torn anterior cruciate.

"This would be our third surgery for the same injury in three years and both of the other players [former Blast midfielders David Vaudreuil and Angelo Panzetta] were all right after six to nine months," said McGinty. "I know they were younger [both in their early 20s] but Mike is an exceptional athlete."

Blast coach Kenny Cooper, whose team lost its third straight at home and third in a row overall Saturday, said he would start defender Doug Neely in Stankovic's midfield spot Thursday night against the Tacoma Stars and give rookie defender Kris Kelderman his first start.

"We've got to move some people around and make adjustments," said Cooper. "We were 7-5 and then Cris Vaccaro went out for two games and Mike was hurt in the first quarter of the next game. We lost two important people and three games."

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