Barger does tough job on field, but stays a nice guy


Maryland Bays and Baltimore Blast defender Joe Barger is a lot of different things to a lot of different people.

For many female soccer fans in the Baltimore area, he's the perfect hunk (blond hair, blue eyes and boyish good looks).

For the Bays, he's a defensive force and a workaholic.

For the Blast, he's a role player who can intimidate the opposition.

In the business world, he's a financial planning expert.

In Baltimore County, he's a homeowner along with Blast forward Domenic Mobilio.

To his parents and friends, he's the all-American boy who is almost too good to be true.

For Bays coach Gary Hindley, he's a positive force in a sometimes too-negative world.

"You can't be around Joe off the field without feeling good about him, your relationship with him and yourself because he's so positive all the time," said Hindley who will send the Bays (6-0) against a strong Millonarios team from Colombia today at 6:05 p.m. at RFK Stadium. "On the field, his work ethic is not only proving to be successful for him, but it's contagious for the rest of the players. They kid him about leading the team in one category . . . fouls . . . but he's well-liked by the players and the fans."

Hindley said he assigns Barger to the opponent's top offensive threat if that player is an outside forward (winger) or left-footed. If the opponent's big scorer plays in the middle of the field as Jean Harbor does for the Bays, the defensive assignment goes to George Gelnovatch or Jeff Nattans.

"Joe anticipates well, is hard-nosed and plays with pace," said Hindley. "He knows he has to put aside his nice-guy image and be a little nasty on the field to get the job done."

Barger, who helped Loyola College to the final eight twice in thNCAA soccer tournament before graduating in 1989, also is a bit of a showman for the Bays.

Barger, 24, always draws a roar from the fans when he performs his somersault throw-ins that carry 40 to 50 yards toward the goal.

"I know the crowd likes it, but I do it mostly to get more length on my throw-ins," said Barger. "I can usually put the ball right at the goalmouth which makes it like a corner kick for us. That gives us another offensive weapon."

In regard to his two different personalities, Barger said: "On the field, I'm a different person because I'm getting paid to do a job a certain way. I have to rely on a physical style because I don't have a whole lot of natural skills. As long as I don't take any cheap shots at people, I see nothing wrong with being all over an opponent."

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