BELL GARDENS, Calif. – Hamid Babaali made quite an impression at this past weekend's Sueño MLS tryouts with his aggressive approach, with a member of the LA Galaxy's coaching staff comparing him to “a little wrecking ball.”
He went all out all the time, especially during Sunday afternoon's session-closing scrimmage, in which he scored one goal – a last-minute equalizer – and might have had three or four with better fortune.
Babaali, a 16-year-old, Brazilian-born forward with Iranian roots, was a no-brainer as one of the Galaxy's six selections – five field players plus a goalkeeper – to compete in the national finals of Sueño MLS' set for May 26-31.
“The kid is a physical beast,” said Travis Bowen, an LA Galaxy II striker who served as one of the club's scouts/coaches at Bell Gardens Sports Center. “And I think once he catches up with his body and gets in an environment where he can continue to learn, that kid, he can do something.”
Babaali's intensity was one of the defining factors in Sunday's hour-long scrimmage involving the 25 second-day players, but he didn't realize how much he impressed.
After the event, he was told how much the coaches liked his determination, but he offered a more self-critical critique: “I need to work on my finishing.”
“I was not having my best game,” he said. “I missed a diving header. I missed a sitter.”
He might have been a bit hard on himself. Two defenders were right there with Babaali on his missed “sitter,” both of his shots were blocked and the diving header, from a sweet cross sailing in from the left wing, might have been off-target, but the inclination to go for it was inspiring.
“We liked the way he came after it,” said Galaxy staff coach Paul Soufl. “And when things didn't go right for him, he didn't hang his head, he just came after the ball and put himself in the right position to succeed.”
Chris Howe, the Galaxy's coordinator of youth development, liked Babaali's “raw power.”
“Very powerful, very strong when he was driving at players,” Howe said, “and just so determined to make something happen for his team.”
Babaali's open and effervescent personality echoes his on-field style, exemplified as he held court on his background.
“I got the Brazilian love for soccer; I got the Persian discipline,” said Babaali, who has ability in the English, Portugese, Spanish and French languages and can read and write in Arabic. “I'm very blessed to be who I am and where I am.”
He's juggled as many as four teams at a time, although now he's playing for just three, including FC Los Angeles and Olimpia, “my Latin league club.”
And he’s not the only athlete in the family. His sister, Yasamin, is a former elite gymnast who Babaali has a high level of admiration for.
“Watching her was the most incredible thing I'd ever seen, and she truly inspires me to become great,” he said. “And I hope I'm on the road to making her proud.”
He's a goalscorer at heart, and he's netted 45 in 30 games the past two seasons for Le Lycée Francais, a heralded bilingual French/English school that counts Jodie Foster, Tatum O'Neal and Christie Brinkley among its alumni.
This was Babaali's second try at Sueño MLS. He didn't advance from the first day at last year's Galaxy tryouts.
“I was extremely disappointed,” he said. “I know I could have done better, but the only way to get back is to go twice as hard.”
That was Babaali's approach this time, and he made sure scouts understood what he was about.
“I would say I'm a dribbler, and I like to create chances for myself and others,” he said. “I always try to look for good situations in which my team can score, and whenever I get the chance, I shoot. ... I always try to keep my scoring rate more than a goal a game.
“That's my mentality. I'm a perfectionist. I think for a good striker, you need to keep a really high average of goals and a really high rate.”