Spirit's defense making a stand behind Namazi

January 06, 1995|By Doug Brown | Doug Brown,Sun Staff Writer

If Paul Wright didn't know it before, he knows it now: Omid Namazi's game is defense.

When the Spirit faced the Wichita Wings last week, Namazi was assigned to guard Wright, the Spirit's scoring leader last season who was about to play his second game for Wichita.

Wright didn't score a point, and the Spirit won, 13-7.

"We thought it would be good if I marked him, because I played with him on the Los Angeles Salsa and I know his game," Namazi said. "If you play Paul tough, he'll disappear out of the game. We concentrated on that, went hard at him. He came off his game."

In seven games since the Spirit signed him on Dec. 1, Namazi has made a clear difference in the team's defense.

In the past five games, four of them victories, the Spirit has allowed an average of 10 points. In the previous five, three of them defeats, the Spirit allowed an average of 20 points. For the season, the Spirit's yield is 14.1.

"Omid has done a tremendous job," coach Dave MacWilliams said as he prepared for the Spirit's game tonight against the Harrisburg Heat at the Baltimore Arena. "He reads the field well and is composed coming out of the back with the ball. He's intense, tackles hard and lets an opponent know he'll be in for a long night."

Namazi has brought more than defensive skill to the Spirit. He has brought an attitude about defense that has permeated the team.

"Going from 20 goals a game to 10 like this, a lot of it is the result of playing defense as a unit," MacWilliams said. "It's individuals playing within a system."

Namazi, 30, was born in Provo, Utah, where his father, Mehdi, was studying for his doctorate in biomechanics and exercise physiology at Brigham Young.

The family went back to Iran when Omid was 6 and returned here six years later.

He played for West Virginia, captaining the team his final two seasons, and then played seven years of pro outdoor soccer. His only indoor experience before joining the Spirit was a few games with the Hershey Impact (now Harrisburg Heat) in 1989.

"It wasn't a big adjustment, even though the indoor game is faster and requires quicker decisions," said Namazi, who speaks fluent French and Persian as well as English, and some Spanish. "I've always been versatile, and that helped me go from midfield outdoors to back [defense] here."

Indoors or out, Namazi's defensive philosophy is the same. Study the opponent. Apply pressure. Hit him. Reduce his working space.

The Spirit wasn't playing defense tenaciously enough to suit MacWilliams before Namazi arrived. His presence and example have helped toughen it.

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