BALTIMORE -- David Nakhid receives a pass and begins a move to his right. As he turns, the ball is knocked away. "Come on now," bellows Baltimore Blast Coach Kenny Cooper. "Keep your head in the game. What's going on here? I won't stand for this. If you're not going to give me 100 percent, I don't want you out here."
Moments later, Nakhid dribbles left and finds an open man. Nakhid hits him with a perfect pass and earns an assist on the goal.
It isn't Reeves Field on the American University campus, and it isn't outdoor soccer. It is the William J. Myers Soccer Pavilion in a Baltimore suburb and, for Nakhid, an American University graduate, it is an opportunity to compete professionally.
Nakhid was the No. 1 draft pick of the MISL's Baltimore Blast. If he makes the team, which appears likely, he'll join former AU teammate Michael Brady as the second Eagle to land a job with Baltimore in the past two years. The Blast will cut one more player, trimming their roster to 19. They will suit up 14 players for games. Nakhid will probably begin the season in street clothes but is expected to be playing early in the season.
Nakhid will apparently be offered a contract for about $20,000. "I don't pay for potential," said Cooper, extremely displeased with the day's workout. "Potential is a wonderful thing, but we reward actions."
Nakhid, who was born in Trinidad, was recruited by Columbia University Coach Dieter Ficken, who spotted him playing in Guatemala. Ficken, however, wanted Nakhid to wait a year before attending Columbia. Nakhid wanted to play immediately so Ficken recommended him to American University Coach Pete Mehlert.
Nakhid became a four-year starter. He finished his collegiate career with 16 goals and 16 assists, was selected to the All-Colonial Athletic Association team in 1985 and '86 and earned a Senior Bowl selection in 1986. Nakhid was also instrumental in the Eagles' 1986 success that culminated with their NCAA championship eight-overtime loss to UCLA.
However, even with such a resume, Nakhid found the transition from college to professional "out of the ordinary" because playing pro soccer involves "learning a brand new game." Whereas outdoor soccer is played on a grass field with sidelines, indoor soccer is played on a carpet with "hockey boards" surrounding the field. The ball is constantly in motion.
"You can't hide in indoor soccer," Cooper said. "Things happen so quickly, you have to have composure. You're at a new level. With the speed of the game, you've got to be able to make decisons extremely fast."
And then, of course, there are the boards. As in ice hockey, indoor soccer players must learn to use the wall or boards to their advantage. "The boards, to be honest, is a game within itself," said Nakhid. "It has its own dimension. But personally, I like it."
Cooper said that before the season starts he will install a pool table in the players lounge so they can get used to the angle and banking of balls. "It's all angles," said Cooper. "And you've got to be able to use it to your advantage."
Mehlert doesn't feel that the transition will hinder Nakhid. He said the skills that allowed Nakhid to excel on the collegiate level will help him mold a successful professional career.
"David attracts a lot of attention in the middle of the field because he is such a good one-on-one player," said Mehlert. "So opponents have to keep an eye on him. He has such a good vision of the game, he can play it simple or he can take you on.
"The thing about David is that he has superb individual skills but also that he does it with flair. He does his thing in an entertaining way. You've got to admire and respect him. Some of the moves he makes on the field, that is what attracts fans to come and watch the game of soccer."
George Mason University Coach Gordon Bradley, who coached Nakhid last year on FC Washington, the nation's top amateur team, said "David is very cool under pressure. And that is the sign of a good player. The only question I would have is whether he could compete with the type of soccer that is played indoors."
Nakhid, unlike many other college graduates, has other options. Since graduating with a double major in economics and international affairs, he has been offered a job with the World Bank, is considering law school and has been offered an even better soccer contract to play outdoor soccer for FC San Jose. Asked about the others, Nakhid will only say, "I'm having a lot of fun right now. So for right now, this is what I want to do."
Mehlert feels that Nakhid would like to stay in the area, so playing soccer in California is probably on the bottom of his list. Whether he stays with the sport at all is the question.
"The demands of professional soccer are not for everyone," said Nakhid. "You demand a lot of the organization and they demand a lot of you. And then you've got to be mentally strong and positive that this is what you want to do. And this is what I want to do, for now."