SAN DIEGO — Just when the Sockers appeared to be dead . . .
San Diego, which had lost seven of eight and four straight at home, fought back from a three-goal deficit in the third quarter to defeat the Minnesota Strikers, 5-4, in overtime Saturday night in the San Diego Sports Arena.
At 2:23 of overtime, Juli Veee beat three defenders as he raced down the left wing. At the last moment, Veee fed Hugo Perez on a two-on-one. Perez took the ball on the right side and tapped it in for the game-winner.
"I was going to shoot at first," Veee said, "but I saw him. Hugo was awful tired. I don't know how he did it."
With the victory, the Sockers (27-25) finish the regular season in third place in the Western Division of the Major Indoor Soccer League.
The Sockers will open the playoffs with a best-of-five series against the second-place Kansas City Comets in Kemper Arena Thursday night.
Going into Saturday night's games, the Sockers faced the possibility of playing Wichita, Kansas City or Tacoma in the opening round.
However, when the Comets beat the Wings, 8-6, in Kansas City Saturday, that meant the best the Sockers could do was tie the Comets and Wings with a 27-25 mark. Wichita finished 27-25. Kansas City is 27-24 with a game against the Sting in Chicago tonight. In a three-way tie, the Comets would come out on top because they had the most victories (7) against the Wings and Sockers. San Diego would come out second with six victories.
If the Sockers had lost, they would have finished fourth and faced first-place Tacoma in the first round.
But they rallied to victory:
- Early in the third quarter, with the Sockers trailing 4-1, defender George Katakalidis scored his first goal of the season. Katakalidis, who has played in only 21 games because of injuries, scored on a right-footer from the left wing.
- At 11:49 of the third quarter, Njego Pesa scored on a tap-in 18 seconds into a super power play opportunity to make it 4-3. The Sockers had a super power play because they had a man advantage and defender Fernando Clavijo was inserted as a sixth attacker.
- With just 2:45 left, Hirmez scored his second goal of the game on a rebound off goalkeeper Matt Kennedy. Clavijo also was a sixth attacker when Hirmez scored.
San Diego was headed into its 14th overtime game of the season, tying the league mark set by Tacoma in 1983-84. The Sockers are 7-7 in overtime.
"At least tonight we showed we can score more than one goal in a game," said Veee, who had three assists. "That says a lot."
The playoff type atmosphere in the Socker locker room said a lot. Veee was asked if this is the spark the team needed going into the playoffs.
"We need more than a spark," Veee said. "We need a fire. We need a forest fire."
Socker Notes A major mixup: On Friday, the Sockers decided that midfielder Brian Quinn, out with a sprained right knee since Feb. 20, would play Saturday night. "He would have been playing in pain," said Socker trainer Bill Taylor, "but he would not hurt it by playing on it. It's a matter of whether he can tolerate it." Quinn never played Saturday because the Sockers forgot to re-activate him from the injured reserve list by the 3 p.m. (PDT) deadline Friday. "I guess it's my fault," said Socker Coach Ron Newman. San Diego sent the league a telex concerning Quinn Saturday morning, but it was too late. "We've missed the deadline before, but they (MISL office) said we couldn't do it this time because of the importance of our game combined with the Wichita-Kansas City game." Said Quinn: "I was disappointed. I was getting ready for this game for three days. It would have given me a barometer as to how I can play." The Socker injury reports change as frequently as the Dow Jones Averages. On Saturday, Taylor said that Branko Segota (fractured right cheekbone April 10) will be cleared to play as soon as his protective mask is ready. The mask is expected to be ready Tuesday. Defender Brian Schmetzer (pulled right hamstring April 10) could be ready to play as early as Saturday . . . The crowd of 11,149 Saturday raised the Sockers' home average attendance to 9,747 for 26 games, which tops their previous MISL high of 9,595 for 24 games in 1984-85. The Sockers' all-time high is 11,415 for 16 games in 1983-84, when the team played in the North American Soccer League . . . Alan Willey scored twice and Ray Hudson and David Byrne once each for the Strikers (26-26).