Tatu is scoring less, playing less and giving away fewer game shirts, but who would have thought he'd try to go incognito?
"No, no," he said, laughing from behind a new beard. "I'm not hiding. But you know what they say, when things get hard, you have to get tough. I'm just trying to toughen up my image. I'm trying to look mean, but I don't think it is working."
But Dallas (8-6) seems to have righted itself after slipping to 6-6 with two home losses last week.
"It was a little shocking to start 4-0 and then slip to 6-6," said Tatu, who seemed more himself with a three-goal, one-assist performance this past weekend, which included the Sidekicks' 7-5 victory over the Blast. "But we are 8-6 now and as long as we win, I'm fine."
There was speculation that the Tatu/Jan Goossens experiment in Dallas might be faltering, but Tatu says it isn't so.
"You have to realize that this season is something different for me and it will take time for me to adjust. But the end result is that we are winning."
The difference, of course, is that Tatu's playing time has gone from "around 30 or 40 minutes a game to about 25 or 30 minutes."
4 Tatu said the change has been "kind of a shock."
"It is hard after all these years of doing things one way to change," he said. "It's very hard to get going, when you come in cold off the bench. Some nights, you can be flat. Some nights, like the last time we played Baltimore in Dallas, you can be beaten up physically from the night before, and then it is even harder. But I am willing to do it, as long as we win."
* THE WRIGHT STUFF: San Diego forward Paul Wright, who scored six goals Sunday in a 15-4 Sockers victory over Tacoma, has been named the MSL's Offensive Player of the Week. Wright is the 10th player in league history to score six goals.
* CLEAN SWEEP: The Sockers made it a clean sweep in the Player of the Week voting, when Kevin Crow was voted the defensive honor. Crow tied his own team record with 10 blocked shots Friday against Dallas and had the game-winning assist against Tacoma Sunday. He had only one block Sunday, but was a primary force in holding Tacoma to just 14 shots, the fewest by any team in the league this season.
* A KOZIOL MOMENT: For about 24 hours, Blast midfielder Joe Koziol was among the league's Top 15 point scorers. With two goals and an assist Saturday, Koziol was in there with eight goals, seven assists in 13 games. Then came Sunday's 15-goal explosion in San Diego, and Koziol dropped from the upper circle.
But who cares? Koziol is working on a pretty nice season. His 15 points in 13 games is already more than he produced in either of his first two seasons with Cleveland.
* HOT SHOTS: Wichita's Dale Ervine leads the league in goals (20) and points (35). Preki (30) and Tatu (29) are second and third in points, while the Blast's Domenic Mobilio is second in goals with 18.
* THE X-BLAST FACTOR: Former Blast midfielder Richard Chinapoo continued his high-caliber play for Dallas Saturday, producing his first hat trick of the season. And Hank Henry, who backed up Scott Manning here a year ago, notched his first victory of the season and his first point as well, assisting on a goal by Troy Snyder.
* NO MAGIC CARPET: Last year the carpet at the Arena was so bad, the league was threatening fines. Now there is a new carpet and new complaints.
"The carpet goes right up the boards about eight inches," said several players after the Blast-Sidekicks game. "The ball doesn't bounce off, it rolls up."
Blast and Arena officials agree there is some trimming to be done, but no one wants to rush into it, as everyone is fearful the rug still has some shrinking to do on its own.
* MSL-LANIA: St. Louis released midfielder Claudio De Oliveira Friday night . . . After all the hoopla in Cleveland over the signing of Bernie James, the defender never showed up. He was expected to be on the floor Friday against the Blast, but James had second thoughts. He and his family decided it wasn't worth the effort to leave their home in Washington state for four months work in Cleveland . . . Goalkeepers Victor Nogueira of San Diego, Mike Dowler of Tacoma and Kris Peat of Wichita have played every game this season.