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VAGABOND HANDSOR HOPES HE'S FOUND HOME

If the encyclopedia editors should call, Buffalo Blizzard forward Chris Handsor is more than ready to pose for the picture to illustrate "soccer gypsy."

"Especially this year. This year's been a tough one," Handsor said Friday.

Handsor's appearance in today's HSBC Arena contest against the Baltimore Blast (2 p.m., Radio 1520 tape-delay at 7 p.m.), will be his 23rd National Professional Soccer League game this season. In his past 15 games, he's played for three different clubs.

In five years in the NPSL, the 6-foot-1, 185-pound Toronto native has earned a championship ring and made two All-Star Game appearances while playing with six different teams, two of which folded while he was on the roster.

Outdoors, he's also played in Italy and Holland, in college at Akron, Ohio, up north with Toronto Croatia, down south with the Charleston (S.C.) Battery and Atlanta Silverbacks, and even in Buffalo, with Team Canada in the 1993 World University Games.

"It's great to be here," said Handsor, acquired by the Blizzard in a trade from the Kansas City Ambush on Jan. 25, about two weeks after his 29th birthday.

"(Buffalo coach) Paul (Kitson) called me at 6 and told me my flight was at 8," Handsor said. Two nights later he earned an assist in his first game as a "target man" with Buffalo. It was the first of his 12 points (four goals, four assists) in five games here. The Blizzard (10-15 overall) has gone 3-2 since his arrival.

Kitson said the trade for second-year defender Kevin Kalish was "good for us, good for them. They got the player they most definitely needed and I felt the same. I needed a player that was going to be helpful and useful to me right now. Yes, I'm building for the future, but the future sometimes is here today."

Handsor started the season as a defender at Edmonton, where was in his third year after the Drillers picked him up from the defunct Toronto Shooting Stars. Toronto had acquired him from the Philadelphia Kixx, which got him from the champion Cleveland Crunch, where he played his rookie year in 1995-96.

When the Edmonton franchise went belly up on Nov. 30 and the players were put up for grabs in a dispersal draft, Handsor found himself a member of the Kansas City Ambush.

Handsor said he and teammate LeBaron Hollimon, also in the same boat (and same car), got to K.C. by driving 26 1/2 hours through snowstorms.

"We hadn't gotten paid and they said we weren't going to get paid until we reported," Handsor said. "So we went there as quick as possible. We drove straight through. . . . It was a long, cold drive."

Handsor scored three goals in his first game at Kemper Arena but, he said, things soon turned sour.

"After my first week, before my trade, there were five or six guys that got released. . . . It was a tough situation there. They weren't winning and (coach) Zoran (Savic) had to find a combination, so he kept changing it up. It was tough for us on the field because we weren't always playing with the same guys. . . . They knew that I wanted to be close to home. I wasn't surprised I was traded. . . . I just didn't fit in. I really didn't fit in."

Handsor, who has a daughter and a soccer academy business in Toronto and parents in Hamilton, Ont., said "I was very excited to hear that I was coming out here. Knowing the players that are here and knowing the coaching staff and knowing the history of the Blizzard. It's a great organization."

He says he's confident he can help the Blizzard once again become a winning organization.

"I've got to learn the way guys on this team run and the way they like the ball played to them. I'm still learning . . .

"You can be happy, but you're not satisfied," he said. "We're still on the bottom and we want to work our way up. Once we get up there, then I'll be happy."

BUFFALO BLIZZARD
Who's hot: Chris Handsor has a five-game point streak.
Record last 5: 3-2
Points per game: 12.2
Points allowed per game: 13.6
Injuries: Doug Miller (knee), Mali Walton (knee), Chris Clarke (ankle)
Fast fact: Allows fewest shots (29.9 per game) in NPSL and has third-best penalty-killing unit (66.7 percent efficient).

BALTIMORE BLAST
Who's hot: Goalkeeper Scott Hileman has won his last three starts and reduced his points-against average to 11.94 per game, fourth-best in NPSL.
Record last 5: 4-1
Points per game: 15.3
Points allowed per game: 12.5
Injuries: Derrick Marcano (ankle)
Fast fact: Has NPSL's highest-scoring offense, best road record (6-4) and best overall record (16-7).

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