SAN DIEGO — When a coach has the best winning percentage in his league, maybe he has to pull some strange and controversial maneuvers in order to keep things interesting.
Take Socker Coach Ron Newman. He maintained his reputation of being lively and annoying to opposing coaches in San Diego's 10-7 win over St. Louis Saturday night in front of 9,087 at the Sports Arena.
With the Sockers ahead 10-7 and nine seconds remaining, Newman replaced goalkeeper Zoltan Toth with forward Steve Zungul.
"It was a bit of fun at the end," Newman said. "We're not worried about their team. We're worried about our team. We don't get to pull our goalkeeper much. It's not the same in practice because there is no pressure. Reaching perfection is my job."
Is that why Newman called timeout with less than a minute remaining in San Diego's 9-0 win over Wichita Jan. 3? Or why he called timeout in the last minute of the Sockers' 11-7 playoff win against Kansas City last year?
St. Louis Coach Pat McBride certainly doesn't understand Newman's tactics.
"I really don't understand it," he repeated a couple of times. "I don't know what else to say. I'm sure Ron had to have something in mind. We all have to make decisions. I don't think it is European versus American philosophy.
"But something like that could come back to haunt you this year or five years down the road. And it kind of detracts from the game."
Oh, the game.
Socker midfielder Branko Segota, wearing what he called his black and white "leisure shoes" instead of his customary soccer shoes, scored four goals and added an assist.
Zungul had one goal and four assists. He leads the MISL in scoring with 20 goals and 26 assists for 46 points, while Segota is second with 24 goals and 19 assists for 43 points.
Outside of Segota and Zungul, the Sockers got balanced scoring. Hugo Perez had a goal and assist, and Kevin Crow, Jean Willrich, Jacques Ladouceur and Wadd Hirmez also had goals for a club that has scored 33 goals in its last four games.
"Everybody has been scoring lately," Segota said. "We have a lot of depth and a lot of players who can run and touch pass. That is particularly effective against a team like St. Louis."
San Diego led 1-0 after one quarter, 3-1 at halftime, and 6-4 after three quarters. The closest the Steamers got in the final quarter was 8-6 with 5:56 to play.
The Sockers have won six straight and eight of nine and lead Wichita by two games in the Western Division of the Major Indoor Soccer League.
San Diego led off the scoring midway through the opening quarter when Zungul received a pass from Segota in the crease and lifted a left-footer on the run into the top left corner of the goal.
Toth, coming off the shutout against Wichita on Jan. 3, had run his scoreless streak to 79 minutes and 11 seconds when Steamer forward Don Ebert scored a power-play goal with 11:58 to play in the half. Toth had no chance on the play as Ebert took a pinpoint crossing pass from Daryl Doran and easily tapped the ball in the goal.
The Sockers broke the tie on a power-play goal by Segota, who took a corner kick from Zungul and booted a 20-footer from the left wing. Segota has scored at least one goal in eight straight games.
A give-and-go between Zungul and Crow resulted in San Diego's third goal.
In the third quarter, Willrich scored on a give-and-go from Cha Cha Namdar and Ladouceur made a steal and finished the play by kicking a left-footer past goalkeeper Slobo Ilijevski. Between those goals, Rick Davis lined a right-footer past Toth.
After Ebert scored his second of three goals to cut the Socker lead to 5-3, Hirmez scored his first goal of the season on a bouncer from the left corner. The ball went in the far side of the net and Hirmez went into a Juli Veee-like celebration on his knees.
Steamer forward Bill Stallings scored with 36 seconds to play in the quarter to make it 6-4.
The final quarter was filled with seven goals and the "nine second" controversy.
"I just don't understand," repeated McBride.
Socker Notes Saturday night's game against St. Louis will be shown on ESPN today at 11:30 a.m. . . . With the win Saturday night, Ron Newman surpassed Pittsburgh Spirit Coach Don Popovic as the coach with the best career winning percentage in the Major Indoor Soccer League. In his third MISL season, Newman has an 82-33 mark for a .713 percentage. Popovic's club is 10-9 this season, dropping his career mark to 175-72 for a percentage of .709.