The last-place curse in the Major Soccer League hit St. Louis Storm coach Don Popovic yesterday.
Popovic became the fourth MSL coach of a last-place team to be fired during the season in a little more than one year, as Storm officials told him his record (12-20) was not good enough.
Popovic, 49, was 68-68 in three seasons with the Storm.
He entered this season with Branko Segota and Preki, two of the top starsin MSL history on his side, prompting many to make St. Louis a preseason favorite to win the regular-season championship.
But the Storm has faltered badly, and needs a strong finish in the final eight games to avoid last place.
In addition to the poor record, Popovic wound up giving away the team's first-round pick in the MSL draft last month to the Blast for nothing in return when a proposed trade fell through.
Popovic agreed to give up the first-round pick to the Blast on the day of the draft and had hoped to get Emil Dragicevic from Baltimore in a deal that also would have sent veteran Godfrey tTC Ingram from St. Louis to Baltimore.
But Ingram vetoed the trade. The veto was permitted under MSL rules because Ingram has been in the league four seasons and with the same team three years.
The other three MSL coaches who were relieved of their duties last season when their teams were in last place were Kai Haaskivi of the Cleveland Crunch, Terry Nicoll of the Wichita Wings and Billy Phillips of the Dallas Sidekicks.
That leaves Blast coach Kenny Cooper (13 seasons) and San Diego Sockers coach Ron Newman (nine seasons) as the only two coaches in the league who have been with their teams more than three years.
NOTES: UMBC F Jason Dieter, whom the Blast drafted with St. Louis' first-round pick, has been working out with the team in recent weeks and could be signed even though he is still in school. But MSL rosters were frozen as of March 1, and the only way Dieter could join the team is if a Blast player were injured in the final eight games.