Rusty Troy came to the Baltimore Blast in 1988 with an ever-present smile, a zest for indoor soccer, and a lot of pride.
"I was so in awe of being a pro athlete," Troy said. "I had no idea of all the problems that were ahead for the league [Major Soccer League]. All the threats of the league closing have taken their toll, but I still love the game and playing for the Blast."
The league woes have intensified for Troy in the past couple of days. The Major Indoor Soccer League Players Association has filed papers charging commissioner Earl Foreman, Blast owner Ed Hale, Blast coach Kenny Cooper and the Cleveland Crunch with unfair labor practices.
Troy, who resigned yesterday as Blast player representative, said he has been accused by some MSL players of taking management's side last summer.
"They're saying Ed [Hale] coaxed me into giving the owners' side during the negotiations," Troy said. "It hurts me a lot. I tried to be honest and do my best. But now some players who used to talk to me don't say a word anymore to me."
The Troy story was glamorous at the start.
He scored three goals in the first game he played at the Baltimore Arena and went on to become MSL Rookie of the Year in the 1988-89 season. The Blast took the San Diego Sockers to Game 7 of the MISL championship series before losing, 6-5.
This all happened in a rookie year that followed a summer in which the University of North Texas product almost didn't even get to play in the MISL college all-star game.
Troy was a last-minute replacement for another player in that game after being snubbed in the original selection of players.
All Troy did was score four goals and get three assists to be named MVP.
With all the accolades coming his way that first season, it seemed that Troy was headed for a career full of bright lights.
But the lights have dimmed during the past three seasons, and the thrill has subsided a bit for Troy, who, at 6 feet, 195 pounds, looks more like a football player.
He has not become a consistent scorer or a top-notch defender after the auspicious start. Troy had a lot to live up to after the strong rookie season, and he hasn't been able to do it.
Troy says he has fallen short of the big expectations.
"I don't think I'll ever become an All-Star player," he said. "I'm not a big scorer or a top defender who goes out every game and marks the leading scorer on the other team. I just try to do my job and play whatever position I'm asked to play. Each year my goal is to improve."
Opponent: Tacoma Stars
Site: Baltimore Arena, 7:35
Radio: WCAO (600 AM)
Tickets remaining: 4,000
Outlook: Tacoma had won four of its past five games before dropping a 7-4 loss last night to the Cleveland Crunch and had forged a three-way tie with Baltimore and the Crunch for fourth place in the MSL. Former Blast F Dale Mitchell (28 goals, 14 assists before last night) is the runaway scoring leader for the Stars. Baltimore traveled all day Thursday to get back from Sheffield, England, after defeating highly regarded outdoor English First Division team Sheffield Wednesday, 8-3, in a game played under MSL rules. M Rusty Troy and F Domenic Mobilio each scored 2 goals in that exhibition game. Mobilio (24 goals, 10 assists) leads the Blast in scoring.