LACKLAND AIR FORCE BASE, Texas —
Soccer, the beautiful game?
Now, try taking the action played on a 100-yard by 60-yard pitch and compressing it into a walled arena akin to a roller rink, and watch what happens.
The combination of close quarters, no out of bounds and endless substitutions produces a fast-paced, aggressive and high-scoring style of play comparable to hockey.
"It's like the same thing," Warhawks coach and player Stewart Hess said. "The puck can go off the walls, the glass. The only difference is you can't go behind the net."
Thirteen of Lackland's outdoor varsity players are well aware of the altered state of soccer. The team is now in its sixth indoor soccer season at the Aztec Indoor Soccer Facility. Hess coaches both the Warhawks' outdoor team on Sundays and indoors on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
Many of the indoor players even prefer the smaller field to its big brother.
Warhawk striker Jonathon Cates is a player who enjoys the disparate elements of the game, especially the emphasis on individual dribbling skills and the freedom to create scoring opportunities.
Coming from a shooter that's not hard to believe, with the nature of indoor soccer leaning toward the offensive attack.
Replicating a Diego Maradona-like run past 11 players on an outdoor field is unlikely, Cates agreed. However, indoors, players have the opportunity to ply their ball handling skills, due to the limited number of players and walled in arena.
"It's awesome. More exhilarating," Cates said. "I like the thrill of beating a player one on one."
One of his favorite moves prescribes passing off the wall in the form of solo give-and-go - a play he put into action during the game July 6 to beat his mark and place a shot in the back of the net.
It also doesn't hurt if you can kick the ball with precision when shooting at a goal slightly smaller than the one outdoors as Cates proved he could do. He scored four goals in the opening match.
But all this action comes at the expense of energy and for some players that's a good thing.
Warhawk defender Eric Schafer uses the quick pace of the game to stay in shape.
"You're always in the game as opposed to outdoor soccer. If the ball is on the opposite of the field and you're a defender, you may not see any action," he said. "Here, you're always in the action."
Due to the increased pace - players taking both front and rear positions as the flow of the game dictates - substitutions are needed often to refresh fatigued lines.
As in hockey, substitutions are infinite and often occur in waves.
And then there's the condition of playing in close quarters that tends to incite a fiery nature in its players.
"It is more physical (than open field soccer)," Hess said. "No one is going to check you into a board outdoors."
It's common for tempers to flare as players jostle for position, run onto a through pass and race toward a ball located near the wall.
As a sign above the arena indicates checking is not allowed.
Just don't tell Hess that.
"Well, a good shoulder-to-shoulder check is valid," he said.
Usually, this is where contact stops, and maybe where the allusion to hockey ends.
Cates said physicality in the close-quarter sport turns up a notch further into the season.
"Just wait two more weeks," Cates said.
So far, the Warhawks have played one game - a close 9-7 loss to Bomberos - with eight more still to go plus a two-week postseason.
The Warhawks play again Wednesday at 9:30 p.m.