SAN DIEGO — The last time the Sockers played the St. Louis Steamers, in the second game of the season, the Steamers were steamed.
The Sockers beat them, big, in that game in front of their home fans in St. Louis, and afterward, the Sockers' Julie Veee made matters worse by bad-mouthing them.
Veee said the Steamers were too old and too slow, adding that he didn't think they were putting forth the maximum effort anymore. Saturday night, the Sockers nearly paid for Veee's comments. St. Louis, not appearing old or slow, took the five-time indoor champions into overtime before losing, 3-2, in front of 9,341 fans at the Sports Arena.
This loss, too, had St. Louis steamed. The Steamers had played well all night but for the sixth straight game, they wound up as losers. Four of St. Louis' six losses have come in overtime and the Steamers are now a full game behind Los Angeles in last place in the Major Indoor Soccer League's Western Division.
"I remember Veee's comments and our players do, too," St. Louis Coach Pat McBride said. "We all thought it was unprofessional of him to say those things. However, I don't think that affected the game tonight."
Sockers Coach Ron Newman agreed, but did say: "St. Louis was a much better side this time around. Everybody seems to play their best against us."
Nevertheless, a goal by Fernando Clavijo at 2:59 of overtime saved the Sockers from dropping under the .500 mark. San Diego (10-9) is alone in second place, 4 1/2 games behind idle Tacoma.
Clavijo's winning goal was set up by a perfect centering pass from--of all people--Veee on a corner kick.
"It's too bad Julie couldn't have scored the winner," Newman laughed. The Sockers, who have been struggling of late, were frustrated throughout the first half Saturday.
The team was coming off a 3-2 loss in Wichita Friday night and it appeared to be a step slow for most of the night.
St. Louis took a 1-0 lead on a goal by Nebo Bandovic two minutes into the game.
Bandovic, whose 24 goals rank him second in the league behind Tatu, took a centering pass from Steve Pecher on a corner kick and beat Socker goalie Zoltan Toth easily.
Not a single Socker marked Bandovic on the play and he was allowed to shoot without pressure.
The rest of the first half, the Sockers were struggling and frustrated. Veee drew a tripping penalty late in the first quarter after he got tangled up with Pecher in the St. Louis penalty box. Veee was first whistled for unsportsmanlike conduct for his role in the play, but the call was later changed to tripping.
In either case, it was apparent that Veee was losing his cool.
In the second quarter, San Diego out-shot St. Louis, 8-1, but it couldn't beat Steamers' goalie Slobo Ilijevski.
Hugo Perez had a couple of good scoring chances, but one of his shots sailed just wide and another went high over the crossbar.
Branko Segota, frustrated like everybody else, had his moments, too. On one occasion, he sped down the middle and was upended by Tim Schulz, with no penalty being called.
Lying flat on his back, Segota kicked Schulz, who was hunched over above him. But play had started the other way and the referees missed the play, so no penalty was called.
Early in the third period, the frustration ended for the Sockers, who turned on their smiles. Led by Segota and Jean Willrich, San Diego came back.