SAN DIEGO — Standing at midfield during the Sockers' celebration Monday night, Coach Ron Newman looked exhausted.
"I could just collapse," he said in the aftermath of his team's fifth straight indoor championship.
It is a non-existent word in regard to San Diego's on-the-field performances.
Every year, the playoffs bring new challengers for the Sockers. And each year, the result is another title for San Diego.
Will it ever end?
"A lot of people didn't think we could do it a third, fourth or fifth time," Newman said Monday night. "I suppose everybody will expect us to do it a sixth time now. Can you believe we won it again? I can't believe that."
With that, Newman talked about collapsing.
If only the rest of the Major Indoor Soccer League could be so lucky concerning the Sockers' play.
As long as Newman is around, at least one opposing coach thinks the Sockers may continue to be dominant.
"The key to their team is the system and Ron Newman as the coach," said Kenny Cooper, Baltimore Blast coach. "A lot of people thought that when Steve Zungul left San Diego, they would have a chance to catch the Sockers. When the system is right, you win. When you talk about the system there, you are talking about Ron."
Cooper, who used to play for Newman, talked about Newman and owner Bob Bell with reverence. "I look at them (Newman and Bell) as people like George Halas and Paul Brown," Cooper said. "The best thing you can say is that when you think you know the answers, they change the questions on you. Just when you think you have San Diego figured out, they do something different."
Cooper coached the Blast to a fifth game against the Sockers in a best-of-five MISL championship series in 1983. Last year, the Blast lost a best-of-seven series to the Sockers in five games.
If nothing else, Minnesota proved that the rest of the league may be catching San Diego. The Strikers held a 3-1 lead over the Sockers before San Diego won the final three games.
The dynasty lived on.
"Nothing is forever," said Zungul, now a member of the Tacoma Stars. "It will all depend on how much the other owners are willing to spend. Do they want to make progress, or do they just want to hang around another year and hope for financial support from TV? We need good franchises in this league. Otherwise, there won't be a league. We need to level the teams out."
As of now, the MISL has yet to find a team capable of giving San Diego the thumb at championship time.
Now that the Sockers have won "One for the Thumb"--a fifth championship ring--some are looking forward to a sixth. Some already are calling it "One for the Pinkie," as they start a championship ring collection on the other hand.
There is another "six" the Sockers must also concern themselves with. Six players were in their option year this season--Branko Segota, Hugo Perez, Cha Cha Namdar, George Katakalidis, Waad Hirmez and Gary Collier.
San Diego has the option of keeping each player at a 10% salary increase for next year or letting him go.
Segota, the team's leading scorer, might leave on his own. He would like to play outdoors after he competes for Canada in the World Cup. If no satisfactory outdoor offers are forthcoming, he still might consider leaving the Sockers.
"I will try not to have to play out my option," Segota said. "I would want to leave if they don't renegotiate my contract. It's not fair."
Segota, who makes an estimated $125,000, had 60 goals and 46 assists in the 1985-86 regular season. He had 13 goals and 19 assists in the playoffs, leading all scorers.
"I've had two super years here," Segota said. "I think I deserve a little more now. You can't just stand still."
Bell, who handles contract negotiations, could not be reached for comment Tuesday. Bell's past policy has been to reach a new contract agreement with players in their option year, or else trade or sell them.
Perez was the team's second-leading scorer in 1985-86. Namdar was a member of the penalty- killing unit and can play midfield or defense. The other three players in their option years are defenders.
Four of the six players have Scott Simpson of Encinitas as their agent. Segota and Perez are the exceptions.
Said Simpson: "I assume Bob Bell wants all of them. All six would be difficult to replace. Bob told me he would like to get something started when the season is over. He has expressed an interest in keeping the four I have."
And the other two were the Sockers' leading scorers.
Veteran Kaz Deyna, another Simpson client, was upset that he did not dress for the championship game. Deyna was benched in favor of Perez, who played at less than 100% with a sprained right knee. Assistant coach Johan Aarnio and Deyna had an argument concerning Deyna's status before the game. However, Simpson said he expects Deyna to return next year because Deyna has a no-cut contract.
Deyna is among three who have played for all five championship teams. The others are Jean Willrich and Ade Coker.
Newman is another constant--and perhaps the most important of all.