The Baltimore Blast celebrated Saturday's 7-4 victory over the St. Louis Storm yesterday by preparing for today's kickoff of its drive to encourage the area's business community to support the hometown franchise.
In an initial show of support, the team officially announced that Towson businessman Bill Stealey of MicroProse Software Inc. will be the primary sponsor on its trip to England for the Jan. 29 Trans-Atlantic Challenge against First Division power Sheffield Wednesday.
"Bill has opened a similar business in England and can see ways for this to be of use to his company," Blast coach Kenny Cooper said. "We found out before Saturday's game that everything was set with his company sponsoring the trip, and I think it was a positive motivator for the team."
Cooper also said the trip is part of the groundwork being laid for the Major Soccer League's possible expansion to England next season.
Groundwork also is to be laid closer to home this evening, when the Blast kicks off its drive to encourage the local business community to support the team by buying season tickets.
The "Blast means business" corporate reception will be at the Bank of Baltimore, and the Blast will be able to point to Saturday's win before 11,692, its largest crowd since March 24, 1990.
Saturday, the Blast scoring was led by Billy Ronson (two goals) and Rod Castro and Jean Harbor (each with one goal, one assist). Domenic Mobilio, Emil Dragicevic and Blast newcomer Ali Kazemaini also scored.
"The pace of the game was absolutely unbelievable," said Kazemaini, who signed with the team Friday and scored his first Blast goal Saturday night. "We fly out so fast, for a while it was hard for me to get hold of the ball at all."
But once Kazemaini settled into the flow, Cooper said he saw signs that the team's new midfielder will be a strong contributor.
"It was an excellent debut," Cooper said. "His composure made a difference -- and he also scored."
With the addition of Kazemaini and the somewhat improved play of Harbor, Cooper was again able to use the three-line system that proved so potent earlier in the season, when the team climbed to 7-5, before it fell into a two-week slide with losses in five of six games before Saturday.
"I feel a little bit better after this game," said Harbor, who had sat out several games to observe and get a better feel for where he is supposed to be on the field. "I did about 50 percent of the things Kenny wants me to do. Once, I was able to do exactly what he wants, when I got position and gave the ball to Billy for one of his goals. But I can do better."
The victory over St. Louis, combined with the Cleveland Crunch's 8-6 loss to the Wichita Wings on Saturday, gives the Blast (9-10) a little breathing room in fourth place.
St. Louis (6-10) dropped into a last-place tie with the Tacoma Stars and Cleveland Crunch.
"We've still got a long way to go," said Cooper, whose team plays the 11-8 Dallas Sidekicks here Friday. "But I think we're on the right track. I think we're going to get better and better."
NOTES: D Bobby McAvan, who played here from 1981 through the 1984-85 season, was honored during introductions Saturday as the "Blast from the Past." . . . . Jim Marooney of Grand Slam Sports in New York visited the Arena last night. Marooney, who will produce MSL games this season for Sports Channel America, wanted to study the Arena. The first 2 games will be broadcast from here: the MSL All-Star Game on Feb. 13 and the Blast's game against Cleveland Feb. 16.