The Waad Hirmez show arrived late in the fourth quarter last night and carried the Baltimore Blast to a 4-3 victory over the Tacoma Stars at the Baltimore Arena.
With 2 minutes, 34 seconds left in the game and the score tied at 3, Hirmez turned on a high pass from former Loyola College standout Joe Koziol and kicked the ball into the net from near the top of the penalty box.
Hirmez's smooth move not only produced what proved to be the winning goal, but also touched off the first emotional moment of the season for the new-look Blast.
Hirmez, playing in his second game at the Arena for Baltimore, sent the crowd of 6,093 into a frenzy when he climbed the Plexiglas wall and pumped his fist into the air in celebration of his first goal this season at home.
After scaling the wall, Hirmez then ran to the middle of the floor and waved his hands into the air in an attempt to coax more noise out of the crowd.
Hirmez explained why he turned into a cheerleader.
"If I had scored earlier in the game, I wouldn't have done it, but since it was so late, I had to do something for the fans," said Hirmez, who won six Major Soccer League championship rings with the San Diego Sockers before coming to Baltimore last summer.
Hirmez promised before the season that he would show the Blast (21-31 last season) how to become winners. But when the team lost its first two games, there were obviously some doubters.
"We had a meeting before the game, and everybody got in their comments," said Hirmez. "Then we went out and played a smart game. In the first two games, our defenders had been pushing forward too much."
It was the first MSL victory of the season for Baltimore (1-2) and prevented the team from going 0-3 for the first time in its history.
Blast defender Mark Mettrick said: "We were desperate for a win. There was no way we wanted to sit around for 12 days and be Hopefully, this will be a building block."
The Blast does not play again until Nov. 8, when it meets the Stars in a rematch at the Tacoma Dome.
Hirmez said he never thought about trying to settle the ball on the pass from Koziol.
"I just wanted to turn and first-time it," said Hirmez. "I beat Freddie [Thompson] by a step and was able to get my left foot around for the shot."
Thompson, who was released by the Blast before the start of last season, said: "I should never have allowed Waad to turn on me in that place on the floor and at such a crucial point of the game. But I stumbled a little, and he got open."
Thompson said that Hirmez "came to his left, turned his back on me and I couldn't recover in time."
Hirmez was one of three newcomers to score for the Blast last night, joining defenders David Eise and Iain Fraser.
Domenic Mobilio scored his fifth goal in three games to account for the other Baltimore goal. Mobilio and Hirmez also had assists along with Mettrick and Koziol.
Midfielder Kevin Sloan, the Blast's only local player (he was born in Columbia and lives in Mount Airy), made his first home appearance for the team, entering the game 34 seconds before Hirmez hit the net.
"With three minutes left in the game, Coach [Kenny] Cooper told me to take a shift," said Sloan, who is on loan from the Maryland Bays. "It was a great feeling to know he wanted me to play at such an important time of the game. I wasn't nervous at all. It would have been a shame to have the jitters since I'm coming off a good season with the Bays and once played indoor soccer in Dayton" in the North American Professional Soccer League.
Sloan had played briefly in Friday night's 8-6 loss to the Wichita Wings in Wichita, Kan.
With the defense struggling a little before last night, Cooper moved Mettrick back to defender from midfield and sent Mike Stankovic to midfield.
The move seemed to steady the Blast defense a little.
Tacoma 2 0 0 1 -- 3
Baltimore 2 1 0 1 -- 4
First period--1, Baltimore, Eise 1 (Mobilio), 4:40. 2, Baltimore, Fraser 2 (Mettrick), 7:57. 3, Tacoma, Heale 2 (Valentine), 11:47. 4, Tacoma, Radwanski 2 (Black), 13:46. Penalties--None.
Second period--5, Baltimore, Mobilio 5 (Fraser), 3:58. Penalties--None.
Third period--None. Penalties--None.
Fourth period--6, Tacoma, Heale 3 (Black), 4:09. 7, Baltimore, Hirmez 2 (Koziol), 12:26. Penalties--None.
Shots on goal--Tacoma 6-4-6-9--25. Baltimore 6-7-2-8--23. Goalkeepers--Tacoma, Dowler (22 shots, 11 saves), Ion (1 shot, 1 save); Baltimore, Vaccaro (25 shots, 11 saves). A--6,093. Referees--Esse Bahrmast, Felix Fuksman, Paul Tamberino.