ST. LOUIS — Juli Veee was brilliant Friday night.
The Socker midfielder had two goals, assisted on two others and electrified a crowd of 10,910 in San Diego's thrilling 8-7 victory over the St. Louis Steamers.
"He was a one-man show," Sockers Coach Ron Newman said. "It was his best game in two years."
Veee's magic, which has been on vacation through the first part of the season, began to resurface early in the game. It reached its peak in the frantic fourth quarter at The Arena.
There was Veee's quick cross-over dribble followed by a whistling left-footer that whizzed by goalkeeper Slobo Ilijevski into the top-left corner of the net. Veee's left foot is his off-shooting foot.
That goal gave the Sockers a 6-5 lead midway through the final quarter of a game that had as many lead changes as strange Steamer goals. And there were many.
After Steamer forward Don Ebert scored a power-play goal to tie the game, 6-6, Veee teamed with Cha Cha Namdar to give the Sockers a 7-6 lead with 2:59 to play.
It was vintage Veee. Listen to Veee's most ardent admirer and most strict critic describe the play.
"He dribbled all around," Newman said. "He was forced into a bad angle, but he made another move, and then one more move, and when he was out of shooting range he got the ball to Cha Cha. It was patience personified."
Namdar, positioned in the crease, took Veee's pass from the right corner and easily kicked his second goal of the season.
"When I make those moves," Veee said, "I like to see the defenders down on the floor. They look up and I am like Mt. Rushmore."
Before the games in Wichita and St. Louis, Veee was feeling more pain than power.
His return to the Sockers from the Las Vegas Americans has been anything but auspicious. He has been hampered by the flu and a nagging groin injury, and he has had trouble establishing himself with a different group of players.
Veee had only two goals and three assists in six games before Friday.
Veee had a goal and assist in the Sockers' 5-3 victory over Wichita Thursday.
"You have to be patient with Juli and sometimes turn a deaf ear when things are not going right," Newman said. "But you could see his game was improving game by game. There was nothing wrong with his game tonight. He was playing defense, coming off the field quickly, and he was communicating with players."
The Sockers' career leader in every offensive category was the most dominant offensive player on the field Friday.
It was a performance that actually quieted soccer's version of Muhammad Ali. Veee is colorful and glib, to say the least, but after Friday's game, he was proud and most gracious.
"We can't score the goals if the other guys don't hustle," Veee said. "My job is to take over from the red line on. Now, I'm getting a lot of playing time and I feel good."
Veee's performance overshadowed excellent showings by Branko Segota (two goals), Hugo Perez (a goal and two assists), George Katakaldis (goal and assist) and Steve Zungul, who had two assists and an empty-net goal that proved to be the game winner.
After Namdar's goal gave San Diego a 7-6 lead, the Steamers called timeout and brought in a sixth attacker. Zungul stole the ball from Carl Rose at midfield and kicked a bouncer into the empty net to make it 8-6.
Ebert scored to make it 8-7 with 1:09 to play, but the Sockers held on to secure their second road victory in two nights.
For the second game in a row, San Diego dominated play. They outshot the Steamers, 34-25, and generally had the better of the play.
After the horn sounded to end the game, Newman raced over to Veee and put his arm around him, and the two walked triumphantly off the field.