When Tarik Walker joined the Baltimore Bays midway through the season, his goal was to first make the team and then simply fit in.
Eight games later, it's safe to say the 22-year-old forward from Wheaton has done that and then some, providing the Bays with instant offense, scoring four goals and assisting on another. He's tied with Mark Mettrick for the team lead in scoring with nine points, and his two goals against the Connecticut Wolves last weekend earned him the United States Interregional Soccer League Atlantic Division offensive Most Valuable Player award for the week.
"Our offensive production prior was pretty decent. We were scoring goals, but it was more of a team effort," said Bays coach Kevin Healey.
"Tarik has the ability to score at any given time on an individual play. He's a dynamic goal scorer who can please the crowd. He's fun to watch."
Walker joined the Bays after finishing his spring semester at Virginia Tech, where he concluded a solid college career with 12 goals last fall.
He said he had to make plenty of adjustments to play at this level.
"The biggest, at first, was the fitness aspect coming out of the college spring semester," he said.
"It's just a different brand of soccer. The style of play in college is more physical, most of which is not necessary. Everything done at this level is done with a purpose."
Healey said Walker has improved all facets of his game, and has a willingness to keep learning.
"He was a little tentative when he first came. He has a lot of power and speed and we've tried to show him a power game and using his body more effectively," Healy said. "He's taken on a more aggressive role and we're trying to refine that ability even more.
"He's an outstanding talent, and anyone with that kind of ability who is always looking to improve will improve."
Walker showed his versatility in the 4-3 win against Connecticut last weekend. He ran 40 yards, beating two defenders, before finding the left corner for his first goal of the game. Later, he scored from 25 yards.
"The first goal was all speed and dribbling. The second goal was sheer power," Healey said. "He can beat you with power or finesse, can knock a guy off the ball and also will pass the ball. He's a great player for the youth to look up to."
To Walker, it doesn't matter how the goals come, as long as they continue.
"There's nothing better than scoring a goal," he said. "I like to get the ball in certain spots and take some people on and go to the goal. I think the Bays are looking for me to do that."
Opponent: Delaware Wizards
Site: UMBC Stadium
Radio: WITH (1230 AM)
Outlook: The Bays (4-9, 48 points, fifth in the Atlantic Division of the United States Interregional Soccer League) remained in the hunt for the fourth and final playoff spot with a 4-3 home win against the Connecticut Wolves last weekend. Delaware (7-5, 63 points) is second in the Atlantic Division. Bays forward Tarik Walker was named the Atlantic's offensive Most Valuable Player last week for scoring two goals against Connecticut. Delaware defeated the Bays, 2-1, in their previous meeting -- the season opener for both teams in Newark, Del.