The Baltimore Blast again turned to the rival San Diego Sockers yesterday to come up with an experienced player who will be expected to provide some scoring punch in the absence of Dale Mitchell and Tim Wittman.
The Blast signed midfielder Waad Hirmez, who has played 6 1/2 seasons for the seven-time Major Soccer League champions and is coming off a career-high 43 goals and 20 assists last season.
Hirmez, 29, was acquired as a replacement for another Sockers player, Paul Wright, who has been placed on the suspended list by the Blast. Wright, 22, refused to report to the Blast after a contract squabble and is hoping to be ruled a free agent so he can sign with another team.
Baltimore also signed former Sockers forward Rod Castro in the off-season.
Hirmez is no Wright in terms of speed and potential, but he is a dependable veteran who can turn on crowds with his showmanship. Hirmez plays with a lot of emotion and has been known to climb the Plexiglas around the floor to celebrate scoring a goal.
Also, Hirmez wants to play in Baltimore, after the Sockers couldn't meet his money demands as a free agent.
Wright was never thrilled about leaving his mother in San Diego and playing for the Blast.
"Waad's the one more experienced player we've been wanting," said Cooper yesterday. "He has the ability to score key goals and his flair for the dramatic should be well-loved by our fans."
Hirmez was born and raised in Baghdad, Iraq, and experienced some anxious moments last January during the Persian Gulf war, when several of his family members couldn't be contacted. He came to this country in 1979 and is a U.S. citizen.
Hirmez, who played in his first MSL All-Star Game last season, said: "In all my years with San Diego, I was always impressed with the crowds in Baltimore, and now I will have a chance to play in front of them on a regular basis."
Wright, who isn't being paid and doesn't count on the Blast roster, said last night he is hopeful of winning the grievance he has filed against the Blast.
"If nothing else can be worked out, I just want my money," said Wright.
NOTES: There appears to be a thaw in the recent tensions between the Maryland Bays and the Blast. Two Bays players, G Steve Powers and M Kevin Sloan, reported to Blast training camp Monday, and now highly touted Bays F Jean Harbor is close to working out an agreement that will put him in camp Saturday. According to Bays D John Abe, who left Blast camp after 1 day of practice last week, the Blast and Bays have worked out an agreement that will cover Bays players if they are hurt while trying out for the Blast. Abe said if that agreement had come a few hours sooner, he would have remained in Blast camp. Instead he decided to play for the Harrisburg Heat in the indoor National Professional Soccer League this season. . . . The first cuts of training camp came yesterday, when the Blast pared 8 players from the roster. They were F Chris Simon, who was best known for the Simon Shuffle last season after he scored a goal; D Gary Cronin, a third-round draft pick this season from Southern Connecticut State University; D Steve Nichols of Loyola College; F Clark Brisson of University of South Carolina; M Steve Lorenzet of Essex Community College; D Steve Boardman, who played for Detroit Rockers last year in NPSL; G Mark Thomas, of Hartwick College, and F Mark Thomas of Quincy College.