Chinapoo ignites Blast, 6-5 Hat trick powers victory over Crunch


Richard Chinapoo can vanish into the night or day quicker than any other player on the Baltimore Blast.

That's why they call him "Coolbreeze."

But there was no way Chinapoo could disappear last night after scoring three goals to lead the Blast to a 6-5 victory over the Cleveland Crunch before 7,244 at the Baltimore Arena.

Chinapoo was in the spotlight, like it or not.

"It was just my night," said Chinapoo trying to follow that cool breeze out of sight. "My shots were falling, and maybe they were concentrating too much on Moby [Domenic Mobilio] and Mitch [Dale Mitchell] and left me alone."

When prodded for more reasons for his first hat trick since March 27, 1988, Chinapoo finally relented.

"Since I've moved to midfield [from defender], I've tried to be more consistent and look for a few more shots," he said. "I've opened up my game a little."

And he closed out the Crunch last night when he bumped in a shot from 20 feet out with 1 minute, 40 seconds left in the game.

That gave Baltimore a 6-5 lead that stood up despite a late flurry by Cleveland.

The Crunch couldn't get the ball in the net before the buzzer sounded because of some stingy goaltending by Scott Manning, who made three saves in the final minute.

Cleveland's Zoran Karic scored about one second after time ran out, but he and teammate Hector Marinaro couldn't convince the referees the goal was good.

Marinaro had to be restrained by teammate Gregg Willin.

"It was obviously too late," said Blast coach Kenny Cooper, "but if I was on the same end as the Crunch, I would have probably done the same thing."

The victory ended a two-game losing streak for the Blast (17-15) and moved Baltimore within a half-game of the first-place Kansas City Comets (17-14) in the Major Soccer League Eastern Division.

Cleveland (12-19) missed an opportunity to move out of last place in the East.

After scoring what proved to be the winning goal, Chinapoo looked toward the stands and raised his fist in delight toward his wife, Rhonda, daughter Trisa, and son Tremaine.

It was his only open show of emotion.

"That's a tradition for me," he said. "My son Tremaine is especially into the game of soccer, even though he's only 3 years old. He knows all the players on our team and often comes here two hours before the game."

Chinapoo denied that the three-goal performance gave him any special feeling of accomplishment after some tough times earlier in the season.

"I have nothing to prove," he said. "I'm confident of my ability, and that's it."

Chinapoo had hit two of his patented long-range shots before driving in the deciding goal.

"The last goal by Richard was a tremendous one," said Cooper. "It was second and third effort on his part. We've talked to Richard about keeping his shots on goal, and it worked tonight."

Chinapoo had a lot of help last night from Tim Wittman (one goal, two assists), Manning (14 saves) and defender Bruce Savage who shut down the high-scoring Karic with only one point.

NOTES: Blast owner Ed Hale missed last night's game due to a bad case of the flu. Hale called it a "big game" because Baltimore has been humiliated in Cleveland this season by scores of 11-2 and 9-3. After both losses, Hale said Crunch owner George Hoffman ridiculed the Blast as "a bunch of midgets and a gutless team." The remarks have led to a feud between the owners, but Hoffman, who was in Philadelphia on Friday, didn't attend last night's game.

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