The first thing Blast midfielder Mark Mettrick noticed about new arrival Waad Hirmez was his legs.
"His left foot is great and his thigh is twice the size of mine," said Mettrick, slightly in awe. "His thigh is the size of my waist! With tree trunks like that, he can't help but help us. Geez, have you seen his legs?"
The whole Major Soccer League has seen Hirmez's legs and blinked at the power they generate.
"When you see his shot coming, the natural reaction is to duck," said Mike Stankovic, the Blast's defender/assistant coach.
Stankovic should know. He has been known as one of the hardest shooters in the MSL for the last 10 years, registering shots in the 70- to 75-mph range. Hirmez is in the same range. Stankovic says he may even have the edge, because of his shorter, more powerful legs that generate a quicker release.
"Waad is a left-footed guy, and he has a tremendous technique," Stankovic said. "That gives accuracy. Obviously, the legs provide the power. You just have to look around. [Branko] Segota is powerful, and Tatu, too. They also have some of the most powerful legs. Some players have to run to hit the ball well, but Waad can just nail it flat-footed. It is very difficult to stop, because you have no time to react."
It makes goalkeepers nervous.
"It's an unbelievable shot," said Rod Castro, who also comes here from San Diego and has played alongside Hirmez the last two seasons. "I mean, he hits it and by the time the goalie raises his hands up, the ball is already in the net."
Yesterday, in his first practice with the Blast, Hirmez put the ball in the net three times.
"It was bad enough when I had to try to stop these shots in games," said Blast goalkeeper Cris Vaccaro. "Now, to face this every day in practice is going to be worse."
Blast forward Rusty Troy, who is having a superb camp and blistering the nets with his own shots, said he expects Hirmez to play even better than he has in the past.
"I think he'll be able to express himself more, and I think that's going to open up our offense and make us better," Troy said.
Hirmez, who is about 6 pounds over his playing weight of 184, says he's glad to be here.
"I came here because management made me feel comfortable and I need that," Hirmez said. "But on the plane, I was thinking there are so many new players here that it would take two or three weeks to get used to each other. But we mixed in well today. I think we're going to have a good team. I know I am going to do everything I can to make it good."
During the past seven years with San Diego, Hirmez has scored on one of every five shots he has taken. He is the MSL's third all-time leading playoff scorer with 56 goals, behind only Steve Zungul and Segota.
"You watched him practice," said Blast midfielder Billy Ronson. "He knows what he needs to do. People have different ways of doing things, but the only thing that matters is how you play. He came in today and he doesn't look out of place. Everyone knows what Waad can do. We just want him to do for us what he did against us."
Hirmez is a strong player who shields the ball well and can put himself in position to score. His style irks defenders.
"I've never liked his shot," Doug Neely said. "It's his timing that kills you. He's either starting a rally or finishing a game off in their favor."
Said Iain Fraser, another Blast defender: "I played against him for five years in Kansas City and he's one of the worst to play against. Waady always scored against us and then he does his bit [climbing] on the Plexiglas. It makes you want to go out there and stuff him. But the more times he does it for us, the happier I'll be."
Bays' Jean Harbor asks for tryout
In a surprise move, Jean Harbor, leading scorer in the American Professional Soccer League, has decided to join Maryland Bays teammates Kevin Sloan and Steve Powers and try out for the Blast.
Another Bays player Kevin Sloan,has reached agrement with the Blast on a contract for the upcoming season,the team announced this morning.
Harbor,who previously had said he was interested in gaining American citizenship and a spot on the U.S National team than playing indoors,said he would be in camp tomorrow.
Harbor's decision comes at a time when coach Kenny Cooper is trying to cut the Blast's roster to 16. Cooper said he will take another day to assess Powers, a goalkeeper.
By adding Sloan,the APSL's second-leading scorer,the Blast
increased its roster to 15 players.