Could barely making the Major Soccer League playoffs be what the Blast needs to break the San Diego Sockers jinx?
They've played four times in the championship series. And always the Blast has gone in with the dominant season-series record, only to lose to the playoff happy Sockers.
"I think we're a little more worried this time because things are so different," said San Diego spokesman Jim Moorhouse. "Everything seems to be upside down."
Every other time they've met in the playoffs, it has been for the championship.
Every other time they've met in the playoffs, the Blast has won the regular-season series.
Every other time they've met in the playoffs, the Sockers have come into the series on a hot streak.
Every other time they've met in the playoffs, the pressure has been on the Blast to prove itself.
This time, none of those things is in evidence. This is the semifinals. The Blast lost the regular-season series, 5-1. In fact, until the Sockers won the last two games in its series with the Blast, San Diego had never led the regular-season series.
The Sockers are 2-5 in their past seven games, and the Blast is on a three-game winning streak. This time, the Blast is the youngest MSL team. It is the quintessential underdog.
"I worry about things like that," Moorhouse said. "In 1984-85, we were 0-3 against the Blast in the regular season, and then we killed them for the title. Now, it's like the tables are turned. And the way the series is set up two here, three there, two back here, what if they win the first game? If they win the first two, it's all but over, with the next three at their place."
Moorhouse says he is not the only Sockers employee worried about this series. But then he sighed.
"Well, if we've got to lose to someone, let it be Baltimore," he said. "At least they will have earned it."
* DALLAS MISFORTUNE: The Dallas Sidekicks have until April 14 to prepare for their semifinal series with the Cleveland Crunch, and the Sidekicks need every day of it. A test on starting goalkeeper Joe Papaleo Monday revealed a torn right knee cartilage. He was to undergo arthroscopic surgery today at Baylor University Medical Center. Backup keeper Hank Henry has a fractured left thumb. Dallas coach Gordon Jago said he hopes Henry will be ready for the opener. Papaleo's status won't be known until tomorrow.
* MONTH'S BEST: Dallas' David Doyle has earned the offensive player award for March and the defensive Player of the Week Award. In March, Doyle scored 17 goals and nine assists in seven games. In those numbers were three hat tricks and three game-winning goals.
The Player of the Week award comes for his efforts Friday, when he played 45:02 in the net in place of starter Papaleo, who injured his knee. Doyle made nine saves, faced 29 shots, and allowed three goals in the 5-3 victory.
The defensive player in March was Papaleo, who went 4-1 with a 6.11 goals-against average, while making 69 saves on 167 shots.
* MOBILIO SHINES: Blast forward Domenic Mobilio earned the MSL's offensive Player of the Week honors with his hat trick against Tacoma on Saturday. It was a special night for Mobilio, who was also voted the Blast's MVP award for the season, after the game that boosted the Blast into the playoffs.