Walker gives Spirit sizable edge

January 21, 1994|By Doug Brown | Doug Brown,Staff Writer

Until the Spirit opened training camp this season, indoor soccer was virtually foreign to Tarik Walker.

"A few pickup games at Corner Kicks in Gaithersburg, nothing more," Walker said. "No real games, no formal practices."

Walker came to the Spirit from distinguished outdoor careers at Good Counsel High in Wheaton and Virginia Tech, where he was the school's No. 2 career scorer behind Eric McClellan of Rockville.

His final statement before the National Professional Soccer League draft was to lead the outdoor Maryland Bays in scoring with seven goals and three assists.

"That's where we first saw him, playing for the Bays," Spirit coach Kenny Cooper said. "We saw the moves and the speed, the way he likes to go at people. It seemed like a matter of time before he adjusted, so we went ahead and drafted him. He was like a sleeping giant."

Only one of those words applies today. At 6 feet 2, 200 pounds, Walker is, by soccer standards, a giant. But he's no longer sleeping.

Going into the game against the Wichita Wings tonight at 7:35 at the Baltimore Arena, the rookie leads the Spirit in game-winning goals with three and has accumulated 11 two-point goals and five assists for 27 points.

When fellow rookie Rob Ukrop first saw Walker in training camp, his reaction was typical.

"Big," Ukrop said. "One of the strongest guys I've seen. Cannon for a left leg."

Walker could have been a college basketball player, too. Coming out of Good Counsel, he had scholarship offers from James Madison, Connecticut, Washington State and New Mexico State. was a shooting guard, All-Washington Metro Athletic Conference, team Most Valuable Player and Good Counsel's Athlete of the Year.

Yet, he opted for Virginia Tech's soccer scholarship. "I've played soccer since I was 5," Walker said. "I like the game more."

Once he joined the Spirit, Walker was fascinated by the speed of the indoor game. It is faster than outdoor soccer and enables him to use his speed to even greater advantage.

"The biggest adjustment is positioning," Walker said. "There are certain angles to it and certain spots where a target man is supposed to be."

dTC Walker, Ukrop and Dan O'Keefe rotate as the Spirit's target man, who often plays with his back to the goal like a basketball center and has to be big and strong enough to absorb physical abuse. All three are new to the Spirit this season.

"When we lost in the playoffs last season, we realized we lacked size, strength and speed in a physically demanding league," Cooper said. "Tarik, Rob and Dan give us a great three-man rotation, and each gives us a different look."


Opponent: Wichita Wings

Site: Baltimore Arena

Time: 7:35

TV: Tape delay on Channel 2 tomorrow at 12:30 p.m.

Radio: WWLG (1360 AM), WAMD (970 AM)

Tickets: Many available

Outlook: The Spirit, the NPSL's winningest team at 14-3, has yet to beat Wichita. The Wings, fourth in the National Division, are 2-0 against the Spirit, including a victory at the Baltimore Arena last season. The Spirit is 11-1 at the Arena this season and 29-4 in two years. Longtime indoor soccer star Tatu, Wichita's No. 2 scorer behind Dale Ervine, is expected to miss tonight's game with a broken wrist suffered last week against the Kansas City Attack. Spirit top scorer Paul Wright is questionable with a strained hamstring.

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