Blast's Hirmez heads to San Diego, with emotional message to deliver

November 08, 1991|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,Evening Sun Staff

The new rhyme Waad Hirmez is reciting says somethin about the way he feels about his former team, the San Diego Sockers.

Through the years, as the Sockers have accumulated nine Major Soccer League championships, they have fulfilled four of their slogans at the expense of the Blast: They won the "Battle of the Best," "[Kept] The Streak Alive," learned "Seven is Heaven" and that "Eight is Great."

Along the way, Hirmez and Rod Castro -- another former Socker who has joined the Blast this year -- have had more than a little to do with those outcomes. But this season, Hirmez has developed his own rallying cry:

"Ten is for Ken," he says, referring to head coach Kenny Cooper and the Blast.

Perhaps his rhyme could be more to the point, like "Two would be a Blast," given the Blast has managed only one title through its 11-year history. No matter what the slogan might be, as Hirmez and Castro return to San Diego for Sunday's 9 p.m. game (WCAO-AM 600), they are eager to deliver the new message.

"I left with a very, very bitter feeling," Hirmez said. "It will be my pleasure to beat San Diego. It will be very satisfying."

"Waad was treated very, very poorly by San Diego before he left," said Castro. "He wants to show [San Diego coach Ron] Newman up. I didn't leave with any bad feelings. For me, it is more of a feeling of excitement to return and play against former teammates, some of whom are very good friends still."

Castro arrived in Baltimore via the free-agent market in August. Hirmez also joined as a free agent in September, but not before a bitter contract battle. A six-year Sockers veteran, Hirmez was the team's leading goal-scorer and a fan favorite who made many personal appearances. He felt slighted when the Sockers balked at his $50,000 salary request, $10,000 below the league's maximum.

"It was a very uncalled for thing," Hirmez said. "But that's OK. I'm very happy with Baltimore. If I had known the Baltimore organization was like this, I would have been here years ago.

"I can't deny that San Diego gave me my first chance to play, that Ron Newman gave me the chance. But he didn't 'make' me, like he has claimed. I want to prove to him that I can play somewhere else for someone else. We're going to be in the playoffs this year and if we play San Diego, we're going to beat them."

For years the San Diego-Baltimore rivalry in the MSL has been unrivaled -- at least in the eyes of the Blast.

The Blast always has been able to hold its own against the Sockers during the regular season (21-18 overall), but has never been up to the task in postseason (8-15), losing those four championship series in seven years.

"We always knew there was a rivalry between us and the Blast," said Castro, recalling his two seasons with the Sockers. "But it wasn't as important to San Diego as it was to Baltimore. When we played the Blast, it was just another team, but a team we knew would play us tough."

Last season, because the Blast floundered in the regular season and did not make the playoffs for the first time in its history, the heat of the competition cooled. "Last year, the Blast was easy," said Castro. San Diego won six of the seven regular-season meetings.

But this season the furnace on both sides is stoked with hot coals: Hirmez on the Blast's side and former Blast veteran Tim Wittman on San Diego's.

"I think we'll have the advantage against San Diego in this game," said Castro. "Waady and I know everything about how the Sockers play."

"The system never changes," said Hirmez. "Players come, players go, but the system stays the same. And it's simple. A 2-2-1 formation with a defensive runner -- that's all it is. Newman does like to create off corner kicks and set plays, but Rod and I know that."

"We know the entire system and we've been telling Kenny [all about it]," said Castro. "We know most of their players, while the Blast has had a lot of changes. They have Wittman to tell them about last year's team, but they don't know us."

Hirmez is particularly pleased at the idea of such an advantage. He has heard from San Diego fans about a "Meet the Players" party the Sockers held just before the start of the season, in which Newman supposedly told everyone Hirmez "went to Baltimore because he thought the grass was greener."

To Hirmez -- who accepted a Blast salary lower than San Diego's $46,000 offer -- it is just another insult on his growing list.

"He wants people to forget me," said Hirmez. "But I tell you they won't. I am going there to do a job. To get us a victory. If I score a goal, I think I might jump on the glass, like I always did there. And you know what? I think the fans will stand and give me a high five."

Performances vs. the Blast

.. .. .. .. .. .. ... Years.... Goals.. .. Assists.. .. Games.. ... W-L

Rod Castro.. .. .. .. .. 2.. .. .. 7.. .. .. . 3.. .. .. .. 19.. .. 12-7

Waad Hirmez.. .. .. .. . 6.. .. . 22.. .. .. 14.. .. .. .. 40.. ..26-14

* Castro had a two-goal game, April 8, 1990, his rookie season. Also scored one game-winner, in Baltimore, March 9, 1991.

* In Hirmez's rookie year, 1984-85, he scored San Diego's 14th goal with 33 seconds to go in Game 7 of championship series, as Sockers routed Blast, 14-2, on national television. He also scored the game-winning goal in Game 7 of the 1988-89 championship series as well as a two-goal, two-assist performance in March 1986. Last season, he produced eight points (five goals, three assists) in seven games.

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