In the past month, Baltimore Blast forward Jean Harbor has developed a healthy respect for the game of indoor soccer. Tonight, he hopes to be able to show a large crowd at the Baltimore Arena just exactly what he has learned. Blast coach Kenny Cooper hopes he will, too.
"We've got to get Jean untracked," said Cooper. "We need to score goals. Jean is a goal scorer. We've got to get him going."
Harbor was the most valuable player of the American Professional Soccer League, the outdoor league in which he played last season for the Maryland Bays. He joined the Blast 13 games ago. Without any indoor experience and without the benefit of training camp, he has been learning on the fly.
After scoring a goal and two assists in his first three games, Harbor has been silent.
Tonight, when the Blast faces St. Louis at 7:35, Harbor will try to repeat the goal-scoring move he put on the Storm the last time it was in town. In that game, Harbor scored the lone goal of his young indoor career and the Blast won, 7-5, to collect one of only three home-field victories this season.
Last week, Cooper decided to try a new approach with Harbor. On a road trip to Tacoma and St. Louis, Harbor sat in the press boxes, high above the fields, to get a clearer picture of how the game unfolds.
"In the last few games, I've been able to see the mistakes I've been making," said Harbor. "It hasn't been easy. Kenny helped me so much by sitting me out. I was able to watch and see what the veterans do. I can see now my position wasn't right. I wasn't getting to the position I was supposed to get to."
Cooper wants to use Harbor as a post-up player. At practice this week, Harbor showed what can happen when he gets to his designed position. He found his spot, set up with his back to the goal, and then spun with lightning quickness. Somehow, while in mid spin, Harbor got off a shot to the top corner of the near post that was indefensible.
"This is what Kenny wants me to do," said Harbor. "But it has been hard for me, because I've not really had time, until now, to sit and watch and think about how to use that small space I've got. Everything happens in a second. I have to use that second to do something. If it happened that I couldn't do that, I'd be out of the game."
Not only have the games been hard, but practice has been, too.
"I think I know the secrets now," he said. "Watching the veterans, watching [Domenic Mobilio], watching [Dale] Mitchell, I see them doing what Kenny has been telling me to do and Kenny has shown me how to touch the ball once and move with it. It is something I haven't been doing. It is something I am doing now.