'A game, not a job'

John Crittenden
Date Published: 
Miami News

Like most 36-year-olds, Greg Myers, coach of the Miami Toros soccer team, is not as swift as he was as a teenager, "But I'm not slow," Myers insists.

The coach of the Toros got his first real measure of Steve David's stride in a preseason scrimmage. "He's incredibly fast," said Myers, "and his stride is devastating. You have to take two steps to match one of his."

The Toros were one player short in a scrimmage a few weeks ago, and Myers jumped in as a defender. He found himself isolated, one-on-one, against David, the 24-year-old from Trinidad who was Miami's leading goalmaker last year as a rookie.

David scuffed the ball along for a few feet, then said, "Sorry, coach." Recalled Myers, "Fifteen yards later, I was five yards behind him."

In the first four games of the North American Soccer League season, David has been pulling away from the league's top scorers almost as easily. He has seven goals in four games, and two assists, easily the league's top scoring effort.

"There's no reason I shouldn't score," David said yesterday after rain shortened practice at Florida International University. "I'm working hard, I'm fit and I've set a target of 30 goals for the season."

Thirty goals would be a lot. David scored 13 last year as a first-year man, and was still the No. 3 goalmaker in the league.

The most striking notation on his 1974 record is that he played 19 games without an assist. "Bad luck," he said. "I made the passes, but my teammates couldn't get the ball into the goal. So finally, I said 'why don't i take the shots myself?' From then on, I did take the shots."

He has two assists now

Myers says the team's attack will be too balanced for that to happen again—David, in fact, already has two assists this season.

As a youth in Trinidad, David recalls playing soccer from breakfast to dark. The kids would go home to lunch two at a time to keep from breaking up the game.

"I still feel that way," he said. "It's a game to me, not a job. I would play all day as long as the ball is there to be put in the goal. Just running, without the ball, that is another thing. Sprints, that's all right. But I am not a long-distance runner. That's one way to get fit, but that is a job."

David is taking courses at Dade Community College Downtown, and he talks about eventually enrolling at the University of Miami. "But I must go home to finish my life in Trinidad," he said.

Steve became so lonely for his homeland during his rookie season that he even though about getting married.

"But that is not for a soccer player," he said. "When you get a wife, she begins to ask, 'Why don't you quit playing the game?' I don't want to have those problems. I'll raise my family when I'm finished."

Now that he is scoring at such a swift pace, David has noticed that more of the female fans who come to the Orange Bowl seem to call him by name.

"But that is not for me," he said. "Dating one girl Monday, another on Tuesday — that would be wild. But I need my rest if I am to reach my goals.

"I get 10 hours of sleep a night," said David. "The first thing I do when I wake up in the morning is to look at the time, to be sure I've had enough sleep."

He'll miss Friday's game

David will not be allowed to play Friday in Philadelphia. He received an automatic one-game suspension after being ejected from last week's game against Rochester for "ungentlemanly conduct" — punching an opposing player in the face.

"I was kicked in the leg," said David, "then the fellow pushed me in the chest. I swung at him — it was a reflex action."

The more David scores, his coach says, the more rough treatment he can expect. "They were pulling on his trousers," said Myers, "cleating him when he went by, fouling him when the ball wasn't even near him. Steve will just have to learn to handle it. We can't afford to lose him"

"It's not going to happen any more," said David. "I'm going to play a cool game — just play the ball."

Opponents may know who he is, but David says he is not a celebrity yet in Miami. "Not among adults, anyway," he said. "I gave a lot of clinics at the schools before the season started. You'd be surprised how many kids call me by name. But their parents don't know who I am."