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SOCKERS ARE EXPERTS : AT OVERTIME : They Have a Way of Surviving Sudden Death in the Playoffs

May 10, 1987|MARC APPLEMAN | Times Staff Writer

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Jean Willrich gets a kick out of winning the coin toss.

Brian Quinn says the players should get a bonus for playing extra minutes.

Jacques Ladouceur believes "someone upstairs knows who's going to win once you get to that point."

Jim Gorsek just plain doesn't like it.

These Sockers are talking about sudden-death overtime games. It's a subject the Sockers have become experts on this season.

After tying a Major Indoor Soccer League record by playing 14 overtime games during the regular season, the Sockers defeated the Kansas City Comets, 5-4, in overtime Thursday in the opening game of their playoff series.

It was the third straight season the Sockers had won their opening playoff game in overtime.

In 1985, San Diego defeated the Comets, 4-3, on a goal by Quinn. Last season, defender Gary Collier--now playing with the Comets--scored the winner in a 7-6 victory over the St. Louis Steamers. On Thursday, Waad Hirmez scored at 5:58 of overtime.

Game 2 of the best-of-five playoff series will be played at Kemper Arena at 11:05 a.m. (PDT) today.

"What makes us so optimistic is that we had 20 to 25 great chances Thursday," Gorsek said. "We could have easily won 10-4."

But the Sockers' shots seemed to keep hitting the post or crossbar, and Comet goalkeeper Alan Mayer came up with key saves.

The Sockers, who were 7-7 in overtime during the regular season, don't have any definitive answers as to what constitutes a winning game plan in overtime.

"It's a crap shoot when it gets to overtime," Quinn said. "You go hard for as long as you can and hope to get the goal before you get too tired."

"It's a lucky thing," said Willrich, who as team captain is in on the coin toss before the overtime period. The team that wins the toss gets possession of the ball when the 15-minute period begins.

But unlike professional football, in which the team that gets the ball first has a big advantage, the coin toss is more of a formality in indoor soccer.

Once overtime begins, play tends to be a little more defensive than usual.

"You try to stay the same way you'd like to play," Socker Coach Ron Newman said. "There's no point going into a defensive shell. But you can't just blow forward. Players would normally be a little more defensive."

And nervous.

"When I first started playing," Socker defender Hirmez said, "it was, 'I hope I don't make a mistake.' "

That bad pass or missed tackle is magnified when it leads to the game-winner in overtime.

"Nobody really wants to be a goat," Newman said. "Then there are the guys who want to be heroes . . ."

Goalkeepers aren't out to be heroes. They just pray that their team scores fast. Very fast.

"I just want to keep us in the game," Gorsek said. "I can lose the game for us, but I can't win it. If I can keep us in it, our guys will put it in the net."

Gorsek said the worst scenario is when the Sockers bombard the opposing goalkeeper but fail to score. Suddenly, the other team races down the field and ends the game.

"Overall, I really don't like overtimes because they are sudden death," Gorsek said.

That's exactly what many fans find so appealing. And many players think sudden death is preferable to playing a full overtime period.

"Get it over with," Socker midfielder Branko Segota said. "Play sudden death."

Willrich says sudden death is in keeping with the fast, offensive style of the indoor game. "People over here like sudden death," Willrich said. "This is America."

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