The Baltimore Blast and midfielder Ali Kazemaini are expected to work out an agreement today that will see him play here tomorrow night against the St. Louis Storm.
"I think we have to work out something," said Blast coach Kenny Cooper, who was going to watch Kazemaini practice this morning before making his final decision on whether the team would offer a 15-day contract or sign him for the rest of the season.
"We can't afford to make any mistakes about this," Cooper said. "I think Ali will give us some options. It's not like he has to show people anything. He's a proven player. But he'll be pushed harder here than he's been pushed anywhere else. He has the talent, and it's my job to bring it out."
Kazemaini arrived in town Monday night for a tryout. The Blast needs a player who can help pick up the action in the midfield since losing veteran Mike Stankovic for the season with knee surgery. Cooper said that while it is impossible to replace Stankovic, who offered physical strength, skill, and the ability to win the game when it's on the line, Kazemaini affords vision and the knack of holding on to the ball.
After two days of practice, Kazemaini said he has noticed several things about the Blast.
"One thing is real obvious," he said. "It's a real young team, and it runs well. The first five minutes out there, I felt like a pickup truck on the highway being passed by a bunch of Mercedes.
"This is the first club I've ever been with that there isn't much difference between any of the players. There are no superstars, no big egos to set anyone above anyone else. The similarity between all the players creates unity and a good atmosphere. I think this is a great opportunity, if I can jell with them and use my strength to their benefit.
"Because they're young, they sometimes force the ball. Maybe, with my experience, I can hold the ball and give them a little time to settle. To set the tempo is important, and they do that, but to do that consistently, you've got to maintain possession -- that's important too."
Kazemaini, 28, looks fit. Cooper said he is pleasantly surprised by Kazemaini's conditioning, "He's thinner than I've ever seen him," said Cooper.
"I'm lighter than I've ever been," said Kazemaini, who is 6 feet and about 180 pounds.
Cooper said he has made Kazemaini aware that he will have to run up and down the field, contributing on defense, as well as offense.
"I think he's willing to do it," Cooper said. "But let me put it this way: if he doesn't do it, he won't play. But I think he is disappointed at the way he was treated in Cleveland, and I think he's hungry. Cleveland's loss could be our gain."
Kazemaini admits to the disappointment. The former all-star, whose playing time was limited last year by bone spurs, felt Cleveland gave him the runaround. He was ready to sit out the season when the Blast called.
"I was working out in Cleveland, trying to stay in shape, and it was getting to be a drag," he said. "When the Blast called, I got excited. This is the only team I'd consider coming back for this season. I need someone to push me, and I know Kenny will demand from me everything I have the capability to give. And I'm willing to give it.
"If they're happy with me and want to work it out, I'm happy. . . . There are some things I'd like to prove to some people. I still think I can play with anyone in this league."