Starting a new season with four straight road games doesn't have many advantages in any sport. But coach Gary Hindley thinks he may have found a bit of silver lining as the Buffalo Blizzard prepared to get on the bus for the second weekend of the National Professional Soccer League season.
"I told the players we've got a chance to go off-Broadway first," Hindley said. "We have a chance to fix things in a hostile environment. So it should make us a bit tougher and when we get home (on Nov. 15 at Marine Midland Arena), we should feel more comfortable."
Saturday's game in Detroit (7:30 p.m.) and Sunday's matinee in Toronto (2 p.m. at Maple Leaf Gardens) are home openers for both the Rockers (0-1) and the Shooting Stars (0-1 before playing at defending champion Cleveland tonight). Both are Buffalo's North Division rivals.
Home teams won all four games on the NPSL's opening weekend. The Blizzard fell victim to the Wichita Wings, 16-9, in a game Hindley said could have gone either way. Hindley said that because the team is still trying to make deals to get more new players, he looked at the game as kind of "an extension of preseason."
"Holding a team like Wichita to 16 points should and could be enough to win to win sometimes, " he said.
Hindley said the score sheet indicated the Blizzard was "a little bit soft on defense."
"We only had nine fouls in the game and we only had five blocks. Both have to be stronger," he said. "Wichita only got 23 shots off against us, so you would think there'd be 20 blocks in the game. But if you only get five, they're getting too good a look at the goal. And with nine fouls, we were probably off people a little too much."
Detroit lost its opener, 17-12, to the expansion Philadelphia Kixx after leading at halftime, 8-6. The Rockers, who beat Buffalo in two exhibition games, got three assists from player-coach Pato Margetic and two goals and an assist from Dennis Brose.
Last Jan. 26, Brose tied a Blizzard-opponent record by knocking in five goals (including two three-pointers) at Memorial Auditorium.
"He can set or break that record any time he's on the floor," Hindley said. "His knowledge about where the goal is and when to get a shot off is uncanny. He's in a category that not many people offensively are. He could literally take 15 shots in a game. . . . You have to be aware of Dennis Brose every time he's on the field. That puts a lot of pressure on defenders and keepers."
The Blizzard last week signed Rene Rivas, a defender/midfielder who played outdoors last summer with the Rochester Raging Rhinos. The 28-year-old native of Rio de Janeiro, was an All A-League selection. Three other former Rhinos -- Doug Miller, Andy McKay and Fuseini Dauda -- are already with the Blizzard.
"We sort of won the Rene Rivas sweepstakes in this one," Hindley said. "I'd say he was one of the most sought-after A-League defenders by a lot of NPSL teams.
"Rivas can play either midfield or defender. He's very comfortable on the ball. He's going to be an offensive threat coming out of the back and on free kicks also."
Toronto, an expansion team which bused all the way to St. Louis, lost its opener, 25-11. The Shooting Stars trailed, 17-0, before Peter Gastis scored the first goal in Toronto history at 7:12 of the third period.
Toronto beat Buffalo, 17-16, in a preseason game at the Blizzard practice facility at Sportsplex in North Tonawanda.