Urgency is the word Rusty Troy uses to describe the Blast's situation, as it heads into this weekend's back-to-back games with the Cleveland Crunch and San Diego Sockers.
"It's now or never," said the defender, who was honored yesterday as the Blast's Player of the Quarter. "Our last game in St. Louis showed a lot of character. We were down at the half, but there wasn't a lot of talking in the locker room, just a knowledge that we had to go back out there and win the game. And that's what we did."
Troy, the Blast's third leading scorer, with 16 goals and 17 assists, understands there are doubters in the audience. With the Blast (15-17) in a tight battle for the last playoff spot in the Major Soccer League, he knows fans continue to question the team's lack of a big-name goal-scoring threat.
"It's such a tough situation," said Troy, 26. "We don't have a Preki or a Tatu, but we've got a lot of hard-working guys. You ask yourself, if we had a Preki, would he play 60 minutes of defense? The answer is no. So you ask, do you sign a midfielder who will produce 40 points and play defense, or do you sign a Preki, who will score 80 points and give up 50?
"You have to think about all those tendencies, and you look at St. Louis, where they have the goal scorers [Preki, Branko Segota] and no one plays defense. The score may be 13-12, but it's still a loss. The bottom line is to win."
And the Blast is in position to do that. The 4-3 victory over St. Louis was the Blast's first road win since last December. The team also is benefiting from improved performances from Jean Harbor, Kevin Sloan, Joe Koziol and Troy.
Over the past 10 games, Troy, the team captain, has scored seven goals and five assists. Troy's improved point-scoring can be traced to the team's late January trip to England, where he scored two goals to lead the Blast to victory over Sheffield.
"That trip improved the whole team's confidence tremendously," said Blast coach Kenny Cooper. Troy said the trip to England, combined with his years in the MSL, have made an impact on his performance.
"I think the amount of games you play adds up," he said. "You stop worrying about every miscue and just get on with the game. You're not afraid to try things. I started to feel that way halfway through last season and all of this season.
"I'm a four-year player, and while that might not be so long on other teams, I'm one of just five guys who were kept from last year's team, so I'm an older player here. And the guys have shown they have confidence in what I do."
With eight games to play, and with Tacoma and Cleveland determined to beat the Blast out of the last playoff spot, Troy said he hopes the team's improved performance adds up to victories.
"All we have to do is win," he said. "Then we won't have to worry about anyone else losing."
NOTES: Blast owner Ed Hale, whose team is expected to break even or make a small profit this season -- for the first time in 13 seasons -- said he has opened the team's books to the rest of the MSL for use as a successful operating plan. "It must be working for some of them too," he said. "Otherwise, I'd be hearing all about 'The Hale Plan.' "