Blast looks to get Harbor back on the ball Team has gone 4-0 when he gets a point

December 26, 1991|By Bill Free

Jean Harbor was an instant winner last month when he stepped onto the floor with the Baltimore Blast.

In his first three games in the Major Soccer League, he scored one goal and had two assists and helped the Blast win all three games. The forward from the outdoor Maryland Bays was living up to expectations.

Then, in the first half of Harbor's fourth game, he made pass that was turned into a goal by the Cleveland Crunch's Michael King, who scored four goals that night in a 5-4 victory over the Blast at the Baltimore Arena.

Since that pass, Harbor seems to have disappeared from Baltimore's offense. His playing time has decreased during a six-game stretch.

And as Harbor has faded to the bench, the Blast has faded as well, winning only two of those six games. One of those two victories came against the Dallas Sidekicks on the road, when Harbor had one assist.

The Blast is 4-0 when Harbor scores a goal or contributes an assist, and 1-4 when Harbor doesn't get a point.

So, as the Blast prepared to take on the Stars tonight at the Tacoma Dome, at 10:35, coach Kenny Cooper was trying to get Harbor untracked.

Cooper and Harbor met before Saturday night's game against the Wichita Wings to discuss what has gone wrong.

"Jean told me he needs to get the ball sooner," Cooper said. "But he has not been in a position to get the ball. In outdoors, you can be behind a man and still get the ball, but indoors you have to be in front of your man. It's all different here for Jean. With the Bays, they were always getting the ball to him on the offensive end. Here, you have to work hard with or without the ball."

Cooper said Harbor has no problems as long as he has the ball, but, "when he doesn't have the ball, it's like: 'What do I do now?' "

Cooper says opponents have had time to scout Harbor since the first three games and are taking away some of the things he likes to do.

"With all the tape of games around now and satellite telecasts, it doesn't take long for other teams to learn a lot about a new player," he said. "Jean has all the qualities of a good player and has to play through this thing. It's nothing that we can't work out."

In addition to adjusting on the field, Harbor has had to adjust to not being the star of the show. With the Bays, everything revolved around him; he won the Most Valuable Player in the American Professional Soccer League last season, when he scored 17 goals and had 11 assists.

"It's been hard," Harbor said. "I've not performed to my expectations. I talked to Kenny about getting me the ball sooner because I need some support to create two-on-one and three-on-two breaks. Right now, I'm going one-on-one most of the time. If I have someone supporting me, I can get the ball to someone else and help us score goals."

Harbor said that has been his primary objective from the beginning.

"I just want to help us win games any way I can," Harbor said. "As long as we win, I don't care who scores."

Harbor said Cooper was correct in his assessment of the adjustments he has to make to the indoor game.

"I think Kenny's right," Harbor said. "It's hard for me to say anything because I'm adjusting to the game. I'm learning. Like in most everything else, if you don't make mistakes, you don't learn. Kenny's the coach, and he knows what I have to do."

Harbor did not take any shots Saturday against Wichita and did not play a regular shift.

But he said he didn't want to discuss his playing time or lack of it.

"That's Kenny's decision," Harbor said.

NOTES: F Domenic Mobilio, the Blast's leading scorer, took only 1 shot in the 3-2 loss to Wichita. Cooper said opposing teams have made Mobilio a "marked man, like we do the Dale Ervines of the world." Cooper said the Blast has to get the ball down the floor much sooner to set up its post players, such as Mobilio, Rod Castro and Harbor. "Also we have to use the boards more," Cooper said. . . . Baltimore's Nick Mangione was the second former Blast player to be honored at the Arena this season. Mangione, who was a member of the 1983-84 Blast championship team, played 4 seasons and had 50 goals and 53 assists. Mangione played at Loyola College before he signed with the Blast. He kicked out the first ball before the Wichita game.

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