The challenge is an immense one for new Baltimore Blast midfielder Waad Hirmez.
Hirmez, who won five Major Soccer League championship rings with the San Diego Sockers, hopes to show the Blast how to win the big games. The ones that could bring the first MSL title to Baltimore since 1984.
Hirmez was on the other side of the ball from the Blast in three championship series won by the seven-time MSL champion Sockers.
"In the past with the Blast, the problem was the Blast didn't step forward when a big game was on the line," said Hirmez yesterday. "It was different in San Diego. We never panicked, no matter what position we were in during a game, and always believed we were going to win. If it wasn't me scoring a big goal, it was Branko Segota or Brian Quinn. We had a talented team, but it wasn't always better than the Blast teams we beat."
Hirmez said the 1988-89 Blast team that lost to the Sockers, 6-5, in Game 7 of the MSL championship series was "the best team ever in this league. They had everything from goalkeeping to defense to midfielders to forwards. That team was awesome."
Hirmez remembered how Baltimore blew away San Diego, 7-0, in Game 6 that year to tie the series at three and set the stage for the deciding Game 7 at Baltimore Arena.
But Hirmez said San Diego never got down after the 7-0 shutout and came out the next night "and changed our whole game plan around for a 6-1 lead."
Hirmez scored the sixth and winning goal early in the third quarter of Game 7.
"I think it's also a matter of not believing you can do it until you've done it," said Hirmez of the Blast failures to win the MSL title series in four tries against San Diego (Hirmez wasn't part of San Diego's 1982-83 season championship victory over the Blast).
So just how does Hirmez, who will be 30 in 11 days, propose to change the Baltimore luck now that he's wearing Blast red instead of San Diego blue and gold?
"I never want to let these guys get down on themselves," said Hirmez who is known as one of the MSL's best showmen.
Hirmez is a little cocky, a whole lot confident and extremely talented. He enjoys playing to the emotions of the crowd and loves to win.
He calls himself a "cheerleader" and is coming off a career-high 43 goals last season.
After scoring goals, Hirmez seems to go a little bonkers. He climbs the Plexiglas surrounding the floor and clenches his fist in a wild celebration, sometimes whipping the fans into a frenzy.
"Waad's a little different," said Blast coach Kenny Cooper. "He's very vocal and very charismatic. He's an entertainer and expresses himself. We should all get excited when we score goals. He'll fit in well here. We didn't bring him here to change him. He's a winner."
A perfect example of what Hirmez brings to the Blast was on display yesterday during an intra-squad game at Myers Pavilion.
Midway through the game, Hirmez turned to some Blast fans in the stands and said, "Is there any danger of you guys making some noise?"
After that, the scattering of fans cheered each goal in White's 9-5 victory over the Red. Hirmez scored two goals for the White on booming left-footed shots.
After igniting the fans, Hirmez got involved in a heated dispute with teammate Billy Ronson after Ronson apparently had kicked him from behind.
Hirmez started toward Ronson, who stood his ground, and then teammate Rusty Troy stepped in to prevent any fighting.
Cooper loved the confrontation, saying: "That showed me we're ready to play Saturday night [in the season opener against the Dallas Sidekicks at Baltimore Arena]. I don't want a bunch of nice guys. We've practiced together four weeks, and it's time to play a real game."
NOTES: The Blast sold 200 tickets yesterday to Saturday night's 7:35 opener and has 1,700 tickets remaining for the 12,392 seat Baltimore Arena.
Hirmez, who left San Diego because of a contract dispute, said: "I'm feeling like I'm on top of the world here in Baltimore. I never thought I'd be feeling this way. I love the city. I love the players on the team, and it's amazing how I've jelled with the team. I want so badly to help this team win the championship. This city deserves it. I always liked Baltimore when I came here with San Diego, but I never knew exactly how nice it was."
Hirmez is sharing a town house in Catonsville with rookie midfielder Doug Miller.