SAN DIEGO — The Steve and Branko show has turned into the Branko and Hugo show.
Remember the way Steve Zungul and Branko Segota used to work offensive magic before Zungul was traded to the Tacoma Stars last month?
In the Sockers' 10-6 win against the Kansas City Comets Wednesday night at the San Diego Sports Arena, Segota teamed with Hugo Perez to dazzle the crowd of 8,345.
"Hugo and I are the future of the franchise," Segota said, "and we have learned to play a lot better together."
Playing on the same line for much of the game, Perez scored a hat trick and added three assists and Segota had a goal and two assists to pace the shorthanded Sockers to an impressive victory.
Without Brian Quinn (one-game suspension because he has 32 penalty minutes), Jean Willrich (groin pull) and Fernando Clavijo (sprained toe), the Socker lineup was minus 56 goals, 52 assists and a lot of leadership.
"This was the type of game we could have lost," said Socker Coach Ron Newman. "Branko and Hugo were asked to take over, and they sure did."
When Zungul played with the Sockers, he repeatedly said that Segota would follow in his footsteps as the leading scorer in the indoor game.
"Just wait," the 31-year old Zungul would say. "When I'm finished, Branko will take over."
Zungul is leading the Tacoma Stars into the playoffs and is far from finished, but the 24-year-old Segota is not about to wait for his friend to slow down.
On Wednesday night, Segota's three points enabled him to tie Zungul and Eric Rasmussen of Wichita as the leading scorer in the Major Indoor Soccer League with 87 points. Zungul has played in 37 games, Rasmussen in 39 and Segota in 38.
"Goodie, goodie," said Newman, when told that Segota was tied for the league scoring lead.
Now that Zungul is no longer the offensive star on the Sockers, Segota has become The Man.
Since Zungul was sold to Tacoma, Segota has 16 goals and 14 assists in 12 games. In his past three games, Segota has scored 10 goals. That's right, he had four goal games against St. Louis and Wichita last Friday and Sunday.
"Steve and I scored a lot together," Segota said, "but I've gotten adjusted to playing without him. Other players are getting the ball to me and I like the pressure of having to come through. I'm happy to get a shot on my own."
Segota scored his two goals during the Sockers' five-goal explosion in the third quarter.
With San Diego on the power play early in the quarter, Segota's blast from the top of the circle whizzed past goalkeeper Alan Mayer to break a 4-4 halftime tie.
Late in the quarter, Segota's free kick from the top of the penalty area made it 9-5 Sockers.
In outshooting the Comets 37-18 and completely dominating the second half, Segota and Perez received a lot of offensive help.
Wadd Hirmez had two goals and an assist, Ade Coker scored two goals, Cha Cha Namdar scored a goal and Juli Veee had four assists and played a strong defensive game.
The Comets, who are 0-6 against the Sockers this season, got goals from Dale Mitchell, Stuart Lee, John Bain, Pato Margetic, Gino Schiraldi and Damir Haramina.
The teams were tied at 3-3 after one quarter and at 4-4 at halftime, but then the Branko and Hugo show got in full gear.
"When those two players are on the field," Newman said, "they have a magnetism like Zungul and Branko used to have."