The Lazers played just well enough to win Monday night and just badly enough to make it interesting.
The result was a 4-3 victory over the Minnesota Strikers that snapped a five-game Lazer losing streak and moved them into into second place in the Major Indoor Soccer League's Western Division.
A Forum crowd of 3,768 saw the Lazers (16-12) build a 3-0 lead and then hold off a third-quarter rally by the Strikers, who fell to 11-14.
The Lazers controlled the first half, taking the lead when Gus Mokalis unleashed a shot from outside the penalty area that caught Minnesota goalie Tino Lettieri off-guard.
Cacho increased the margin to 2-0 five minutes into the second period when his shot from the left wing skipped past Lettieri.
The Argentine midfielder then scored his seventh goal in just seven games with the Lazers, 1:40 into the third quarter on a 3-on-2 Lazer fast break. Instead of passing to one of the two teammates flanking him, Cacho faked a pass, sidestepped a defender and slotted the ball into the lower right hand corner of the net.
That made it 3-0, and the Lazers seemed to have the game well in hand. The last time the Strikers played here, however, forward Jan Goosens scored four goals in a 7-6 Minnesota win.
"Goosens is the key," Lazer Coach Peter Wall said before the game. "When he plays well, they win; when he doesn't, they're not the same."
Goosens, Minnesota's leading scorer with 32 goals, was kept in check for most of the evening, but escaped just long enough in the third period to notch his 33rd goal, firing the ball between Lazer goalie Mike Mahoney's legs.
Ben Collins made it 3-2 a couple of minutes later, but the Lazers' Willie Molano answered with his 21st goal of the season 13:08 into the quarter and that proved to be the winning goal.
The Strikers pulled Lettieri in favor of an extra attacker in the closing minutes, Collins scored again, but the Lazers, led by an inspired performance by Mahoney in the nets, hung on to win.
Coming into the game, Wall had voiced all kinds of explanations for his team's recent slump.
"There was the flu bug that hit us about four weeks ago," he said.
"We started making mental mistakes," he said.
"We didn't seem to score goals at the right times," he said.
"I don't think we got overconfident, it's just that the other teams realized we're a good team and changed their attitude,' he said.
"Defensively, we really didn't play as well as we had earlier," he said.
Whatever the reason, the Lazers slipped from 14-5 and a tie for first place in the division Jan. 12 to 15-12 and third place coming into Monday night's game.
After winning a club-record five in a row to move into the first-place tie, the Lazers lost seven of the next eight. Wall likes to call the Lazers a balanced team, one with enough depth to counteract injuries such as those suffered by Alan Kelley (knee), Juan Cardenas (ankle) and Mike Hunter (abdominal sprain). But the loss of Poli Garcia was something he could neither have foreseen nor compensated for.
Garcia was injured in the Lazers' home game against the Cleveland Force Jan. 28. The Lazers lost that game and the three that followed.
It was a freak accident, but one that caused Garcia, the team's leading scorer with 15 goals and 19 assists in the first 24 games, to be hospitalized for five days.
"The ball came off the boards and hit him in the face and he went down, holding his hand over his eyes," Wall said. "There was blood in his eye and in his pupil. We rushed him to Centinela Hospital. It's a good thing we did because if we hadn't they said it could have been much worse."
Garcia was released from Centinela last Saturday but remains questionable for Saturday night's game at the Forum against the Cosmos.