Hard-hitting Harbor puts new kick in Blast offense Powerful shots intimidate foes

March 20, 1992|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,Staff Writer

Just call Jean Harbor "The Weapon," but he's no longer a secret one.

"The thing about Harbor's shot is that it is so powerful, you have to be in position, with your hands up, before he actually takes his shot," said San Diego goalkeeper Victor Nogueira. "If you're not, and he connects right, you don't have enough time to make a save."

Nogueira, of course, knows. He was in the net Saturday, when Harbor unleashed the longest, hardest shot Blast coach Kenny Cooper said he had ever seen. From 70 feet away, Harbor sent "a bomb past Victor's head," said Blast forward Domenic Mobilio. "What a great shot!"

It is a sight that is becoming more and more familiar, and more and more worrisome to the competition.

"In this league, you're used to the Segotas and Prekis," said Nogueira. "But Harbor not only has the quick release, he has the powerful shot to go with it. The rule with Harbor is: Be in position, or it's too late."

Sitting in a downtown restaurant yesterday, after a team luncheon, Harbor and Cooper smiled at the very idea; Harbor, because this is how he had hoped to play the game when he first signed with the team last fall, and Cooper, because Harbor is rounding into shape just as the Blast is heading down the stretch in hot pursuit of the playoffs.

Tonight, at the Kansas Coliseum, the Blast will try to increase its half-game lead over the Wichita Wings, in their battle for third place in the Major Soccer League.

"I want Jean to send a message when he has the ball," Cooper said. "He could be like Superman, he's so strong and powerful, people bounce off him. You can see the fear in players' eyes when they see him coming with the ball."

When the 6-foot-1, 175-pound Harbor began learning the indoor game, he played as if he were on eggshells, afraid of making a mistake, unsure about his positioning, and because his conditioning wasn't great, his speed was lacking. But during the past six weeks, all that has changed. He knows where his teammates will be. He knows where he should be. And he knows when it feels right to take a shot.

Saturday against San Diego, Harbor produced his first two-goal game. Earlier this season, he wouldn't have had the nerve.

"I had the ball coming up the field," he said. "And I was asking myself if I should shoot. I knew Kenny would kill me if I missed, so I told myself, I'd be careful, but I was going to shoot. I've learned it doesn't have to be a perfect run at the goal and that sometimes, if you take a shot like that [70-footer], you can catch the goalkeeper off-balance."

The former Maryland Bays star has six goals and one assist in his past seven games.

And Cooper wants more.

"Jean is absolutely unstoppable when he's angry," Cooper said. "We've told him when he's in the corner, not to worry about trying to hit it into the boards, just hit it as hard as he can toward the goal. It'll do one of three things: hit the goalkeeper and knock him out, break the back of the net or simply send a message that will keep the other team thinking for some time."

Cooper is using Harbor on set plays, corner kicks and free kicks. And he has told him, "The first shot sends the message."

Translation: If there is a clear path to the goal, kick the ball as hard as he can. If there is a three-man wall in front of him, hit it as hard as he can right at it, maybe next time someone will dip away in fear.

Jean Harbor is a soft-spoken man. But this is work and swift hard kicks are part of the game. Anyone who thinks Harbor may have difficulty pounding a ball into the bodies of the competition, need only watch a regular practice, where he levels someone daily.

"Kenny has helped me to understand that you have to be hungry for the ball, hungry for the goal," he said. "I've found that indoor soccer is no place to be relaxing. Indoors, you have to be angry and do whatever you can to win."

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