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October 30, 1985|MARC APPLEMAN | Times Staff Writer

SAN DIEGO — As the Sockers' goalkeeper, Zoltan Toth and Jim Gorsek are No. 1. Not No. 1 and No. 2. Simply No. 1.

"Whoever is playing that day is No. 1," Coach Ron Newman said.

That is the way it seems to be going these days. Indoor soccer teams are opting for more than one goalkeeper, not as a starter and backup but rather two "starter-quality" goalkeepers.

Playing a 48-game regular season schedule has created this need. What was once considered a luxury has become a necessity.

The Kansas City Comets have Manny Schwartz and former Socker Alan Mayer. Baltimore has Keith Van Eron and Scott Manning. Former Cosmo Hubert Birkenmeier has been brought in to share duties with Victor Nogueira in Chicago.

In the Sockers' case, Toth and Gorsek alternate games. Both welcome the platoon system.

"It's easier having two goalkeepers on a team because it gives us time to recuperate from injuries and it puts a lot less pressure on us," Gorsek said.

Toth would prefer not to play back-to-back games and feels being platooned could add years to his career.

"Playing goalkeeper is very tough," Toth said. "It's not like hockey where you wear a lot of protection."

He should know. Toth missed nine games with a broken ring finger on his right hand early last season. Gorsek had a pinched nerve in his neck that forced him to miss the first six games last year.

In addition to alternating Toth and Gorsek, Newman has replaced one for the other in certain situations.

"When we started this last season," Newman said, "we had no problem with them being alternated. But I had to sit down and tell them I wanted to also have the opportunity to take one out and put the other in.

"When you get the first shot past a goalkeeper, it is a major achievement for the other team. The barrier is broken. Sometimes the goalkeeper just doesn't have it that day. Switching them is available as a tactical weapon."

On occasion, Newman will switch them to enable the Sockers to match up better against an opponent. In the fourth game of the championship series against Baltimore last year, Toth faced more than 50 shots and gave up 10 goals in a 10-7 loss. Gorsek was in goal when the Sockers won the fifth game, 14-2.

When the teams returned to San Diego, Newman opted to start Gorsek again. The Sockers won, 5-3, to clinch the championship.

"Against Baltimore," said Gorsek, "you can't play a wide-open game. When there is confusion, that's when things start going bad. I slow things down against a team that tries to play a wide-open game. I do a great deal of talking and try to be in control all the time. I try to control the pace of the game."

Zoltan Toth and Jim Gorsek really have only one thing in common--their job descriptions.

In terms of background, personality, life style and even taste in food, they are as different as the pitches thrown by Phil Niekro and Dwight Gooden.

When he was 8 years old, Toth was making diving saves and listening to his father tell stories about his glory years as a star goalkeeper in Hungary's professional league.

Gorsek grew up listening to people tell him he was too small to play sports. He barely knew what soccer was until he was 17.

"Toth has a big pedigree for outdoor," Newman said, "and Jim is a lumberjack who comes from nothing."

Toth is flamboyant, both on and off the field. His father used to receive standing ovations for simple goal kicks, and he grew up wanting to be just like his dad.

Before the championship series last year, Baltimore Blast Coach Kenny Cooper said: "I'm afraid of Jim Gorsek because he does the basics very well. He makes everything look simple."

There you have it. Gorsek is basic and workmanlike.

When he played for the New York Arrows, Toth ran in the fast lane and frequented discos. In 1983, he won the Major Indoor Soccer League's 10 1/2 award as the league's best-looking player.

Gorsek is a licensed carpenter who spends the off season working on his home in Oregon.

Toth enjoys what he calls "Hungarian gypsy food." Gorsek's favorite foods are hamburgers and potato chips.

These are the Sockers' goalkeepers--hamburgers and nails for one and dash and discos for the other.

As a storyteller, Toth has to be among the league leaders. And he has some fascinating and eye-opening stories to tell.

"My father was my idol. I listened to his soccer stories and I wanted to be like him."

George Toth played for Gamma from 1939 to 1952. Zoltan never saw him play in a game, but he practiced with him regularly, saw him work out and listened to lots of his soccer stories.

"People told me he had such a style," Zoltan said. "They said that when he came out for a cross ball, he had to fly. He used to say 'If I was as tall as you (Zoltan is 6-foot 3-inches), getting cross balls would be like cake."'

Zoltan started as an outdoor goalkeeper and still considers that to be his first love.

The younger Toth played for Hungary's national outdoor champion Ujpesti Dozsa Budapest from 1977-79 and for the Hungarian Olympic and national teams in 1980.

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