KANSAS CITY, Mo. — In a game played in indoor soccer's back alleys, the Kansas City Comets decided the Sockers' fate with high skill.
Defender Gino Schiraldi's game-tying goal and midfielder Tasso Koutsoukos' game-winner gave the Comets a 5-2 victory Friday night in front of 13,556 at Kemper Arena. Koutsoukos' was the second of three goals the Comets put past Socker goalkeeper Jim Gorsek, who had nursed a 2-1 halftime lead almost halfway through the final quarter.
Kansas City (21-17) struggled at a slow pace dictated by the ailing Sockers until an unusual penalty gave the Comets their chance. It was not a chance to be missed when Socker midfielder Jean Willrich, coming out of a scramble with Comet defender Gary Collier, yelled at senior referee Esse Baharmast after he was called for a foul. Baharmast penalized Willrich for dissent and the Comets' power play was on.
"There was no question about it," said Schiraldi, who tied the score with a power-play goal. "Clemo (Coach Dave Clements) said this was the time to do it. We got the big one."
Schiraldi tipped in a no-look pass from Dale Mitchell with 22 seconds left in the penalty to tie the score, 2-2.
"We needed a break," Koutsoukos said. "This was one of those games where we were about stifled. We needed to grind it out. Willrich definitely said something. Whether it was a penalty I don't know, but he did say something."
With the yelling and hacking over, Koutsoukos took a wild shot off the glass by Cacho and volleyed the rebound past Gorsek with 4:40 remaining. Television replays showed Koutsoukos admiring his goal with a backward somersault as his perfectly placed shot bounced off Gorsek's hand. Two sixth-attacker goals later, the Comets had moved into a second-place Western Division tie with the Sockers (20-16), who played well considering four top players were out with injuries.
For the Sockers, Koutsoukos' deciding goal was overshadowed by what they considered was the deciding penalty to Willrich.
The raised eyebrows and voices belonged to Socker Coach Ron Newman, who blamed Baharmast, a Kansas City resident, for the crucial call.
"We all know he lives here," Newman said. "That's suspicious enough. Even if it was (Comet owner David) Schoenstadt it would be suspicious. You want to say great game, lads, but the score is 5-2. Where did we lose?"
Willrich was no less upset. Both he and Newman questioned Baharmast's ethics, although Baharmast and another senior referee from Kansas City, Ermano Ritchl, have officiated games in Kemper Arena for years.
"I said, 'What the heck is this?' " Willrich said. "This Esse is the worst. Maybe because he is from Kansas City he wants to orchestrate for the fans. I'm just saying it's ridiculous a guy from Kansas City is refereeing in this game."
San Diego dictated a slow pace because it was missing the heart of last year's Major Indoor Soccer League championship team. One of those, Gary Collier, played--and won--against his old teammates for the second time in a week.
"In San Diego, they've got some hot tempers," Collier said. "Sometimes they say things they shouldn't. I said that even when I was there.
Socker Notes The Sockers on Friday signed midfielder Vidal Fernandez, who played with the Sockers from 1981 to 1984, to a 10-day contract. Fernandez had 38 goals and 65 assists in 70 indoor games with San Diego. Defender George Katakalidis (sprained left toe) was placed on the MISL injured list Friday. He cannot be reactivated for the team's next five games. . . . Keder, a former New York Express forward who agreed to terms with the Sockers Wednesday, cannot join the team. Keder, who signed through the 1987-88 season, has visa problems, according to the Sockers.