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Blast puts best foot forward in rout of English hosts


The Blast wanted to make a good impression against Oldham Athletic in Manchester, England, last night. If dominating the hometown team is making a good impression, the Blast succeeded.

"We knew from all reports we had heard that the Blast was coming to play to win," said Oldham coach Joe Royal. "We gave all we had, but lost to a much more experienced indoor team."

The Blast beat Oldham, 6-1, as Rusty Troy, Dale Mitchell, Tim Wittman (two goals), Angelo Panzetta and Domenic Mobilio scored. Oldham, the top English second-division outdoor team, scored in the third quarter on a goal by Paul Moulden.

"It was definitely a different experience," said Blast defender Bruce Savage. "We used mostly our [Major Soccer League] rules, but with a few of theirs that really made a difference."

Savage said the best English rule involved the ball going out of play.

"They have about eight kids positioned all around the arena," said Savage. "So any time a ball goes out, those kids scoop it up and throw it back immediately. It keeps the game going and the whole thing was over in an hour and 15 minutes. What a great rule."

Savage said Oldham, which has fielded an indoor team for about five years, is still learning the game. According to the English rules, one forward is not allowed to cross the halfway line.

"It was obvious they weren't used to having to track back on defense in the beginning," Savage said. "We had a lot of three-on-two breakaways and a lot of scoring chances. But later on they got better."

The game marked the first time an MSL team had played outside the United States, and, therefore, the first time a European crowd could watch the Americanized indoor version of their sport.

The crowd, which numbered close to the capacity 6,000, stood and cheered as the Blast circled the arena after the game.

"It has been a wonderful experience," said Blast owner Ed Hale. "We showed our soccer skills to be every bit as good as theirs and demonstrated our strategy and coaching to be much better. This was a solid, solid team we played and we gave them a sound beating on their home court. It ranks up there with some of the best things I've ever seen."

No one was more impressed than Royal, Oldham's coach.

"Baltimore is obviously a polished side," said Royal. "I thought our lads held up well, but in the end Baltimore's experience, using the boards and playing the rebounds, proved to be a tough obstacle to overcome . . . In this game they showed why they earn their wages at playing indoor soccer."

The Blast returns to Baltimore tomorrow. It plays back-to-back weekend games at the Arena, Saturday against Wichita and Sunday against Tacoma.

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