BIRMINGHAM, England -- Three visits, three victories. When it comes to the indoor version of the game, American players still can teach Her Majesty's subjects a thing or two about soccer.
"This was a wonderful endorsement of the way we play the game," said Kenny Cooper, the English-born coach of the Blast, which headed home across the Atlantic yesterday after another success against a British team, this time 4-2 over Aston Villa.
"We may not win the World Cup in 1994, but I think we are the best in the world at this level," Cooper said. "I had three rookies on our team and we still beat an English First Division squad."
For one of those rookies, 23-year-old goalie Shaka Hislop, last night at the National Indoor Arena -- one of England's most intensive soccer hotbeds -- was a particularly special occasion. Hislop, named Most Valuable Player, was born in London of Trinidadian parents. He had not been in Britain since 1985.
"It was an incredible experience," said Hislop, who just graduated from Howard University. "This was my first professional game. I'm hoping I may now get a few tryouts with a few English teams."
Cooper said Hislop's performance saved the Blast from possible defeat.
"I knew this would be our toughest game so far in England, because we were without three regulars. I think the score might well have been different had it not been for the fact that we scored the first three goalsand Shaka played exceptionally well."
Baltimore led 2-0 by the end of the first quarter. Goran Hunjak, assisted by Mark Mettrick, opened the scoring at 4:24. Billy Ronson followed at 11:48, assisted by Iain Fraser. After 4:06 of the second quarter, Keith Furphy made it 3-0 on an assist by Hunjak.
Mark Blake scored for the Villa at 13:46, but Jason Dieter, another rookie, restored the Blast's three-goal advantage at 4:28 of the third quarter. Ian Olney scored a late goal for the hosts.
The Blast, which was warmly applauded by the crowd of 6,000, now has beaten Oldham Athletic, Sheffield Wednesday and Aston Villa -- all First Division teams. Cooper conceded his squad probably would have lost all three outdoors.