SAN DIEGO — Never a dull bunch, the Sockers are even looser than usual.
Forward Steve Zungul came to Tuesday's practice wearing sunglasses and a white headband. If Chicago Bear quarterback Jim McMahon can do it, why can't the leading scorer in Major Indoor Soccer League history have some fun?
"It all becomes a little boring," Zungul said after the Sockers defeated the Kansas City Comets, 7-1, in front of 8,050 fans at the San Diego Sports Arena Wednesday night. "It's like it was when we won four championships with the New York Arrows. It has become a matter of how many goals we score."
Playing without high-scoring midfielder Branko Segota, who has a bruised right knee, the Sockers still cruised to a team-record ninth straight victory. The MISL record of 19 consecutive wins was set by the Arrows in the 1980-81 season.
Zungul, Segota, goalkeeper Zoltan Toth and defender George Katakalidis were on that Arrow team.
"I think this is the best team I've seen," Katakalidis said. "It has to be the best all-time team. Everybody knows what we're doing and we're still beating them 9-0."
And 7-1. San Diego has the best record in the MISL at 16-6 and they are 6-0 in 1986.
Juli Veee scored two goals, Hugo Perez had a goal and two assists and Jean Willrich, Fernando Clavijo, Zungul and Katakalidis had one apiece. Goalkeeper Jim Gorsek made seven saves on 14 shots to improve his record to 8-2.
San Diego had scored at least one goal in the opening quarter of its last 12 games coming into Wednesday's match. They had outscored their opponents 40-10 in the opening period.
However, the Sockers had only four shots on goal in the opening quarter, and none went in the net.
The game was scoreless--that's right, scoreless--midway through the second quarter when the top-scoring team in the league exploded for four goals in a span of 2:19.
"If you don't score against us early in San Diego, sooner or later it's cemetery time," Veee said.
It was sooner.
Willrich took the long rebound of Waad Hirmez's blast from the top of the circle, wheeled in the penalty area and banged a liner into the upper-right corner of the net to make it 1-0 at 7:11.
Thirty-five seconds later, Veee scored his 200th goal as a Socker on a quick turnaround bouncer from the the right of goalkeeper Manny Schwartz.
Veee had barely finished celebrating his memorable goal and the crowd's chant of "Veee" was still echoing through the arena when the Sockers were once again on the attack.
Suddenly, it was 3-0 when Katakalidis scored on a pass from Zungul off the left sideboard. Twenty-one seconds later, Perez was awarded a goal on a ball that actually went off the head of Comet forward Stuart Lee.
By that point, Schwartz was probably wishing that former Socker goalkeeper Alan Mayer had been able to make the trip to San Diego. Mayer, leading the MISL with a 3.46 goals-against average, suffered torn ligaments in his right index finger against Wichita Jan. 14.
Late in the first half, the Comets made it 4-1 on a chip shot by Tasso Koutsoukos. Former Socker forward Laurie Abrahams set up the goal on a precise centering pass from the left corner.
Neither team scored in a third quarter that will be remembered most for the collision of heads between Abrahams and Comet forward Keith Furphy.
There were some very anxious moments as Abrahams lay flat on the field for five minutes after the collision. He suffered a concussion and was taken to a nearby hospital. Earlier in the game, Comet defender Angelo DiBernardo dislocated his right elbow and forward Charlie Fajkus sprained his right ankle.
"Everything went wrong for them," Socker Coach Ron Newman said. "They should have been up a couple of goals early in the game and then they kept bumping into one another and their players got injured."
The night became even tougher for the Comets in the final quarter. Clavijo, playing excellent defense throughout the game, scored on a three-on-two break to make it 5-1. Minutes later, Veee took a centering pass from Perez and headed the ball into an empty net.
Zungul scored his 24th goal of the season to make it 7-1. Then he showered and headed out to his car to find his sunglasses.
Boring? No way. The Sockers are having too much fun.