SAN DIEGO — Great athletes often reach for new challenges when they are at the top of their game.
Sockers midfielder Branko Segota is a perfect example. After scoring three goals and assisting on three others in the Sockers' 6-2 victory over Tacoma Sunday night, Segota spoke of his burning desire to play for the Canadian National team in the World Cup in Mexico City this summer.
"When it comes down to it," Segota said, "I would like to leave the Sockers and join the Canadian National team. That's my future. It will be difficult to leave here, but it may be my only chance to play in the World Cup. If the coach picks me, I will do everything to be there."
Segota was born in Rijeka, Yugoslavia, but moved to Toronto when he was 7, and has since become a Canadian citizen.
If selected for the Canadian National team, Segota said he hopes to practice with them for a few days in January and then join the team on a regular basis in mid-April.
Practice for the Canadian National team begins in Colorado Springs at about the same time the Sockers' regular season ends, April 5.
"There is nothing in my contract with the Sockers that says I can't go," Segota said.
A recent ruling by an arbitrator for the North American Soccer League states that players from San Diego, Minnesota and Chicago (former NASL teams playing the Major Indoor Soccer League) are free to leave their teams to play outdoor soccer.
There will undoubtedly be a lot of controversy among players, owners and coaches if and when a player decides to act upon the ruling.
After Sunday's game, Sockers Coach Ron Newman said, "I don't mind him getting some extra training when we have some days off, but I don't know about him missing games."
It is certain that if the Canadian National team coach saw Segota's performance against the Stars Sunday, it would only reinforce his admiration for one of the MISL's youngest and brightest stars.
Segota displayed guile while assisting on the Sockers' first goal, touch in chipping in the second, power in drilling the third, speed in outracing a Stars defender to set up the fourth, accuracy in scoring the fifth and great vision in a cross-field pass that resulted in the sixth.
"Everything I touched and passed was going in," Segota said. "Actually, I was kind of tired and was mentally a little down before the game, but I talked to Steve (Zungul), and he said to go out there and don't try and do anything super. So I just went out and played."
And did he play. A San Diego Sports Arena crowd of 7,266 saw the Sockers race to a 3-0 lead after one quarter and lead 5-1 at halftime
Despite playing with the flu for the past two-and-a-half weeks, Segota has been one of the leaders of the Sockers' rejuvenated offense which has 19 goals in the past three games. Segota has six goals and four assists in those three games to move into third among MISL scoring leaders with 33 points.
Juli Veee, Brian Quinn and Zungul also scored for San Diego. Zungul had two points to move into second place among the league scoring leaders with 34 points. Dallas forward Tatu and Wichita forward Chico Borja are tied for the lead with 35 points.
San Diego's fifth goal consisted of five one-touch passes. The play went from Segota to Kaz Deyna to Segota to Cha Cha Namdar to Veee to Segota for a short kick from inside the penalty area.