Blast in unaccustomed position of trying to dig out from below .500


With 17 games left and the Baltimore Blast on a three-game losing streak that has dropped it below .500, Kenny Cooper suddenly is in jeopardy of having only the second losing season in his 11 years as the team's head coach.

Cooper's lone losing season came three years ago when a team that included Stan Stamenkovic finished 25-31.

Cooper cleaned house after that season, and the Blast nearly won the Major Indoor Soccer League championship the next season, losing Game 7 of the finals by one goal to the San Diego Sockers.

But now problems have set in again, and most players are surprised.

Baltimore (17-18) is 5-12 on the road this season and 12-6 at home entering tonight's 7:35 game against the Dallas Sidekicks at the Baltimore Arena.

Ten-year veteran Tim Wittman, who was around for the 25-31 season, said there were obvious reasons for that team losing, but not for this one.

"There were a lot of personality problems on that team," said Wittman. "It was a crazy year. But this team is sticking together and should be winning games.

"There have been a lot of things that have gone wrong. It's not one particular person's fault or one problem. It's always something new that causes us to lose."

Wittman shook his head at the Blast's record and said: "My gosh, it's hard to believe. Being below .500 is awful."

Goalkeeper Scott Manning said Baltimore is not controlling the games "like we were. We're not taking the opportunities presented to us and forcing our will upon the game."

Manning hesitated a moment and said: "I think I have an idea what's wrong, but I don't want to get into it. Let Kenny [Cooper] and Jim [assistant coach Pollihan] decide what the problem is and do something about it."

In last Sunday's 7-6 loss to the Kansas City Comets, it looked as if the Blast was physically and mentally drained.

There has been some speculation around the team that the players have been worn down by Cooper's intense practice schedule and approach to the game.

However, Manning said: "For us to say that we're tired might mean we're not using the infamous mirror. We are the players right in the middle of everything that happens on the floor, and it's up to us to find a way to win. We have to look at ourselves in the mirror.

"Kenny's always yelling. He's emotional and he's going to come out emotionally all the time. That's the way he's always done it, and he has won a lot of games."

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