SAN DIEGO — Sockers figured Saturday night that if they couldn't have the services of their top player, the best they could do was to try to shut down their opponent's top player.
Playing without Branko Segota--who underwent surgery Saturday afternoon to repair his broken cheekbone--the Sockers took to the Sports Arena floor Saturday night and took aim at Dallas Sidekick star Tatu.
The San Diego defense kicked, pushed, shoved and all but tore the jersey off Tatu's back.
The strategy worked for a while as Tatu, the league's leading scorer, was nearly contained for the first three quarters.
But in the fourth quarter, the Dallas star took his own shirt off--twice. Tatu, who always throws his jersey to the crowd when he scores a goal, netted his second and third goals of the game to give the Sidekicks a 4-3 victory in front of 9,946 fans.
For Tatu--who scored the game-winning goal at 10:41 on a power play and who scored his first goal in the second quarter--it was the 10th hat trick of the season. He now has 66 goals and 36 assists for 102 points, far and away the most in the Major Indoor Soccer League.
Segota, meanwhile, who leads the Sockers with 75 points, is expected to be out for the rest of the regular season.
'We've been playing without a lot of key people a lot, recently," Socker Coach Ron Newman said. "We should know what to do by now. We just have to create more scoring chances."
For three periods, the Sockers did that and opened a 3-1 lead behind goals from Jean Willrich, Cha Cha Namdar and Jacques Ladouceur.
Meanwhile, the Sockers' defense was clamping down on Tatu. Midway through the first period, Socker goalkeeper Jim Gorsek stopped Tatu on a shoot-out attempt. Tatu was awarded the free shot when Gorsek knocked him down in the penalty box after Tatu had slipped through untouched behind the San Diego defense.
"I must say I was a bit upset with myself after missing that one," Tatu said. "Gorsek made a better play than I did. San Diego's defense was tough against me all night. I knew eventually, I'd have to help us get control of the game."
That, the Sidekicks accomplished with some help from the Sockers. After Tatu scored 23 seconds into the fourth quarter, Gorsek and Waad Hirmez had a mix-up in front of the San Diego goal. Neither goalkeeper or defender went for a loose ball and Mark Karpun came in and stole the ball to score for Dallas.
Then, with five minutes left, the Sockers were caught for having too many men on the field, giving Dallas a power play. George Katakalidas had illegally played a ball before Willrich got off the field creating the penalty.
Moments later, Tatu's shirt was off and Dallas had a 4-3 lead. "The game was ours," Newman said afterward. "But we made two silly mistakes and gave it too them."
For the Sockers, it marked the first time all season they had lost three straight. San Diego is now tied for third place with Kansas City, four games behind Tacoma.
Branko Segota, who was injured in Friday's game against St. Louis, underwent surgery Saturday at at Sharp Memorial Hospital in San Diego. The surgery, performed by Dr. Geoffrey Smith, was called successful. Segota was not in attendance at Saturday night's game and will be out of action indefinitely . . .. Brian Schmetzer, who suffered a pulled right hamstring in the loss to St. Louis, will be out for four to six weeks . . . . The Blue defeated the Gold, 3-1, in the Sockers' old-timers game earlier Saturday night. Lorenz Hilkes scored two goals for the winners . . . . The Sockers return home Wednesday night to face St. Louis.