When Sam Sumo had 12 goals after only seven games, Coach Gordon Bradley of George Mason University's soccer team wondered how his freshman striker from Monrovia, Liberia, could maintain that pace.
"I would say that's a very difficult test to keep up such a high rate," Bradley said at the time. "The first few games, most coaches didn't know him. Because of his goal-scoring accomplishments, they'll be guarding him special."
In the seven subsequent games, with two and three defenders marking him, Sumo scored nine goals. According to Soccer America magazine, his total of 21 in 14 games probably leads the nation, although the NCAA does not keep college soccer statistics.
Last Wednesday, in his 12th game, Sumo broke the school's single-season scoring record with his 20th goal. By comparison, Virginia's Jeff Gaffney and American's Michael Brady scored 16 and 22 goals last season when both were named all-America. Sumo still has seven regular-season games to play.
"The way I score is a gift," Sumo said. "I pray and I practice. I'm confident every game I play I'm going to get a goal."
He has failed to score a goal in only two games this season. Against Radford, he had one assist, and the Patriots won easily, 4-0. He didn't score Saturday when George Mason lost to Duke, 3-2, in overtime, although he had a goal nullified by a questionable offside call.
"He's going to score," Bradley said. "Sam's got the instinct, the smell and the eye."
He developed his considerable talents playing for the vocational school he attended and, before that, on the open lots of Monrovia.
"We play all the time because we love the game," said Sumo, the son of an airplane mechanic and the oldest of eight children.
And George Mason (13-1) loves the way he plays the game. This season he has had a four-goal game, a three-goal game and four two-goal games.
"It's for sure he's going to score," said Bradley. "But his life is going to be more difficult because defenses are going to adjust accordingly. If an opponent wants to double- or triple-team him, that's great. I just hope they don't become physical and try to rough him up."
Regardless of the defensive strategy, Sumo always has been a natural scorer. That skill earned him a spot on the Liberian national team, which hasn't won since Sumo's departure, according to Bradley.
Sumo's arrival at George Mason came about by a fortuitous turn of events. When Bradley became coach last May, he felt his team was just a few players away from being a contender for the national title.
"There were no good players to recruit," said Bradley. "They were all on board (at other schools) when I signed on here. I decided to go further afield to strengthen the team."
Bradley learned about Sumo from Arnie Ramirez, the coach at Long Island University, an old friend from Bradley's days as head coach of the Cosmos in the North American Soccer League.
"Ramirez was in Liberia to get a defender," Sumo said. "After the Liberian Electricity Corporation Tournament, I told him I wanted to go to Long Island U. The only scholarship he offered was a partial scholarship. He called me one day and told me he recommended me to Bradley. That's when I started to communicate with him."
Not long after, Sumo arrived in Fairfax, carrying only two suitcases for his two-year stay. When his roommates, Mark Guilbault and Brian Rivett, met him, he was wearing a leopard-skin robe. Soon after, they took him to Sears to purchase a winter coat.
The next time he sees snow will be the first time. But despite a bit of culture shock, Sumo says he is not the slightest bit homesick. He is not scheduled to make a return visit for another 18 months.
"I'm concerned about getting an education," he said. "And getting home to help my family. Pretty soon I'll be the father and they'll be looking up to me. My dad can't do everything."