The East squad playing in the USAir College Indoor Soccer Showcase at the Baltimore Arena Feb. 13 will come together three days before taking on its counterpart from the West. That might sound like short notice and scant practice time, but Frank Olszewski isn't complaining.
"A couple of years ago we had one practice, and a short one at that," recalls the Towson State coach who will be assisting the Blast's Mike Stankovic. Billy Phillips of the Dallas Sidekicks will handle the West team, assisted by Bill Sento of Loyola.
"It won't take long for the kids to adapt to each other," says Olszewski, "because, in most cases, they've been going against each other for so long or, at some point, played together.
"For instance, talk to Joey Layfield [Towson State] and Jason Dieter [UMBC] and, despite going to different local high schools, I'll bet they played together as kids or on some Tuesday night indoor league somewhere."
Layfield and Dieter will be joined by 14 other selectees representing schools from Washington, D.C., to Boston. The opposition comprises players from the Atlantic Coast Conference to the Pecos to Las Vegas to Portland, Ore. Now you know why an airline is involved as sponsor.
The collegians will square off at 5 p.m. that day, followed by the MSL All-Star Game three hours later. The MSL's annual college draft will be held the next day, Feb. 14, at the Stouffer Harborplace Hotel.
"There was a time when college players used to be drafted as tokens," recalls Blast coach Ken Cooper. "But the college programs have progressed so far that the players developed there are a big part of the MSL very quickly these days."
Ironically, as Cooper was expounding on the virtues of college players, the Blast announced that defender Iain Fraser had been named the team's best performer in the second quarter of the season.
"Fraser is proof of the progress of the college system," he said. "When we lost Bruce Savage to the [U.S.] National team, it left a void because he was the best marker in the league as far as I'm concerned. We needed someone to take care of the best player on the other team and Iain has done that. And he has not only done a good job of replacing Savage, he's been a good scorer for us."
While checking in as the MSL's third leading shot blocker to date, Fraser has also contributed seven goals and eight assists in the Blast's first 20 games.
College Indoor Soccer Showcase
Baltimore Arena/Feb. 13
.. .. .. .. .. EAST.. .. .. ..
* Goalkeepers: Shaka Hislop (Howard) and Jon Gruber (Massachusetts).
* Defenders: Neil Payntor (Old Dominion), Vince Jajuga (Connecticut), Brian Enge (Harvard).
* Midfielders: John Silva (Seton Hall), Richie Williams (Virginia), Henrique Silva (Salem State), Mirsad Huseinovic (Brooklyn), Todd Graden (SUNY-Fredonia).
* Forwards: Joe Layfield (Towson State), Jason Dieter (UMBC), Vito Serafino (Hartford), Domenick Scanni (Dowling), Mario Lone (George Washington), Larry Martin (Clarkson).
.. .. .. .. .. WEST.. .. .. .. ..
* Goalkeepers: Aidanmm Heaney (UNC-Charlotte), Marcus Roy (Northern Illinois).
* Defenders: Steve Kuntz (St. Louis), Craig Conger (Wake Forest), Kevin King (Tulsa), Chris Hamilton (Akron).
* Midfielders: Graham Merryweather (Evansville), Bryan Thompson (SMU), Andrew Zorovich (Furman), Terry Pryor (UNLV), Joey Leonetti (Portland).
* Forwards: Gerell Elliott (Fresno State), Henry Gutierrez (N.C. State), Andrew Coggins (South Carolina), Andy Kessinger (Ohio Wesleyan), Troy Bingham (Gannon).