At one time, it was kind of fun to watch. Goalie Harry Alford would make a save, run the length of the field and either pass it or take a shot. Now every time Alford makes one of those dashes, U.S. Under-19 men's lacrosse coach Bob Shriver holds his breath, and waits for the moment to exhale.
Another daring dash, another opportunity for injury.
In a sport where a goalie can have as much impact as a high-scoring attackman, Alford is just as big as most defensemen and runs as well as most midfielders. There are days, though, when he thinks he is all three.
And that's what has Shriver nervous.
Five days ago, Shriver and the U.S. Under-19 team lost co-starting goalie Mike Petit to an ankle injury for the rest of the World Championships at Towson University. That left Shriver with makeshift goalie Nick Williams and Alford.
Yes, that Alford.
The one who runs to daylight like Jamal Lewis. The same Alford who had three points this past season at Washington's St. Albans School scoring on two of three shots. Alford has never seen a gap that he didn't think he could make it through.
"I guess you could say a little pressure is on him now," said Shriver, also the coach at Boys' Latin. "We're down to one, but what are you going to do? The biggest pressure now is that Harry loves to go, loves to run the field. That's generally how you get hurt; that's where the other kid got hurt ... running the field.
"So, hopefully, Harry won't take too many of those forays, but you don't want to put the reins on something he is very good at. There are many ways to skin a cat. If it works, we're all for it."
Alford is even more efficient in the goal. At St. Albans, he allowed an average of 5.5 goals and had a save percentage slightly over 70 percent. Coach Dave Urick wanted him at Georgetown. Bill Tierney tried to lure him to Princeton. Just about all the Division I schools recruited him until Alford committed to Maryland.
Guess what immediately impressed Terps coach Dave Cottle about Alford?
"He's an athlete in the goal," said Cottle. "The kid runs all over the field. Here's a goalie that can run down the field and lead the break."
The kid is not reckless, nor is his ego out of control where he feels compelled to score. The dashes are planned and calculated.
"As a kid, my father [Harry Alford Jr., a former football player at Wisconsin] would give me the confidence to run out of the cage and produce on the offensive end of the field," said Alford, who also played outside linebacker at St. Albans. "I knew with my ability, I could do a lot of things other goalies couldn't.
"I know when there is an open field and when to take advantage of it. I'm not running to force a shot. But if no one is open, I'll keep it until someone comes and guards me, and then I'll pass it off."
The style is natural. Alford didn't start playing lacrosse until he was in the fourth grade and his family moved from Indiana to Washington. He remembers looking outside his window and watching other children playing a "foreign" game with sticks.
He picked one up, and has yet to put it down.
"In the sixth grade, I played goalie because no one else would do it," said Alford. "I knew I would get the starting job, and play the whole game."
Alford has always been confident, a trait all goalies must have. But he doesn't have the typical goalie mentality of being a head case. He isn't high-strung. His emotions don't change from shot to shot.
Alford is low-maintenance, reserved, reasonable and articulate. He is a perfect ambassador for the game.
"I've always wanted and will continue to give something back to the game," said Alford, whose father is president of the national black chamber of commerce. "I guess I am kind of shy and I keep my words to a minimum. I don't want to speak when I'm not supposed to, or sound cocky.
"I like to inspire young black kids about this game, keep it growing. When they come to our school or we visit different places, I try to help them out, inform them about the sport. When I tell them I'm a goalkeeper, they just start laughing. Maybe they think I'm supposed to play another position, like midfield or something. I get a lot of mixed messages, but I let them know that I love this game."
Alford might be a trendsetter. There have been other goalies who could run, like Towson's Tim Hastings or Maryland's Jimmy Beardmore. But they were not as big, as thick-chested as Alford. He is part of the game's evolution where the players are bigger, faster and stronger.
The players are more into weight training and nutrition than ever before.
It's intimidating to see a 5-foot-11, 200-pound goalie running faster than midfielders and attackmen. A goal by a goalie can have a significant psychological impact on a game.
"Harry is very calm, cool and collected when he is in there," said Shriver. "He is a laid-back kid, but when he is in the goal, he has a lot of fire."
Said Alford: "Maybe I can be a trendsetter. "With my bulk, I can do a lot of different things. I don't go out there and try to be different, I'm just confident in my ability.
"If you want to label me the next generation of goalies, I'll take it," he said, smiling.