Wittman leaves Cooper doghouse long enough to become captain


Let's just say it's all in the family. Spats happen.

A day ago, Blast coach Kenny Cooper sounded as if he were ready to run defender Tim Wittman off the team for a non-soccer injury. Today, Wittman is captain of the team.

"It's crazy, isn't it?" said Wittman. "But that's how it goes."

Wittman drew Cooper's ire on the first day of training camp, when he was unable to pass a physical because of an injury to his back. A bone scan at St. Agnes Hospital came back negative yesterday, revealing only a muscle strain.

"I'm extremely relieved," said Cooper. "I had a sleepless night over Timmy. When you start talking about the lower back, it's scary."

Cooper said his reaction to Wittman's injury Tuesday was keyed by his emotional excitement about the start of a new season.

"I was just so disappointed about Timmy not being able to participate, I let my emotions out," Cooper said. "He has always set a great example for the team. He's going to be the captain again this year."

Wittman served as captain during the 1988-89 season and up until the second month last season, when he had a verbal run-in with an official during a game in Wichita and Cooper relieved him of the position.

Yesterday, Wittman said Cooper had told him when he signed his contract last month that he again would be given the position.

"But nothing was said since then," Wittman said. "I think it is kind of funny that he mentioned it now."

Wittman said he is happy to be captain again, "because I lead by example anyway. But off the field," he said, "I'm still going to be Timmy Wittman, regardless. I know I might not be the most popular guy. I'm not in it for popularity. All I want is to win, for people to be honest and to work hard."

That is what Cooper wants, too.

"Sometimes we don't agree on things," Cooper said, referring to Wittman's training habits. "He enjoys lifting weights for upper body strength. I'd like him to lift weights to strengthen his legs, knees and ankles. We think differently on the subject and we've got to work on that together. What we all want is a healthy Timmy Wittman."

Although happy to have his position restored, Wittman didn't question Cooper's decision to replace him as captain last year. He did, however, question the $750 fine assessed by the Major Soccer League in the Wichita incident. That fine is still in appeal. Commissioner Earl Foreman said last night no hearing date has been set.

"I refuse to pay that fine," Wittman said. "I didn't hit the referee. I didn't spit on him. Given what other players in this league do and the penalties they've incurred, to give a guy like me -- who until that night had never been thrown out of a game -- that kind of

fine . . . if they uphold this, they'll get it 50 cents a week."

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