SAN DIEGO — The Sockers' streak remains alive.
Just when it appeared that a group of discouraged Sockers might finally be ready to be taken, the five-time indoor soccer champions staved off elimination with a 5-2 victory over the Kansas City Comets at the Sports Arena Sunday night.
The Sockers tied the best-of-five opening-round Major Indoor Soccer League playoff series at two games apiece. A deciding fifth game will be played at Kemper Arena in Kansas City Wednesday night.
"I feel confident now," said Soccer midfielder Branko Segota. "Now the pressure is on them. I think we're still the most talented team."
The Sockers are 6-0 in games in which they have faced elimination, and they are 29-2 in playoff games at the Sports Arena.
Segota, Jean Willrich, Juli Veee, Brian Quinn and Kevin Crow scored for the Sockers, and Segota added two assists. San Diego goalkeeper Zoltan Toth (10 saves on 25 shots) was steady and at times spectacular.
"Zoltan was tremendous," said Soccer Coach Ron Newman. "There were times when they just kept firing shots at us, and he managed to stop everything."
Said Toth: "We played defense more tonight. Not that crazy game like we played last time."
Playing in front of a very supportive crowd of only 7,946 fans, the Sockers came out attacking, just as they had in Game 3 Tuesday night, a 9-7 loss.
But this time, they continued to attack. And they built on their lead instead of blowing it, as has become a recent habit.
"It was good work on everyone's part," said Crow. "Our transition game was sharper, and Zoltan played magnificently."
Just 29 seconds into the game, Segota scored on a right-footer from the top of circle.
Moments later, Segota hit a cutting Willrich on a pinpoint pass from inside his red line. Willrich, who hadn't practiced since Tuesday's game because of a bruised right foot, took the ball on the left wing and lined a left-footer into the net at 3:11. It was the most solid shot in weeks for Willrich, who has been struggling offensively.
During the first quarter, Crow and midfielder Cha Cha Namdar were involved in a brief altercation on the Socker bench. Crow refused to discuss the incident after the game.
Namdar said: "He turned and hit me. He elbowed me in my face and then punched me. I never touched him. We were discussing something about the power play, and he took out his frustration on me. It shows no discipline."
After that, the Sockers concentrated on beating up on the Comets. At the eight-minute mark of the second quarter, a Comet goal scored by defender Iain Fraser was disallowed because a foul was called on Jan Goossens before the shot. The Sockers made it 3-0 on a power-play goal by Veee, who blasted a right-footer from the top of the box at 9:24. It was the first goal of the series for Veee.
The Sockers continued to control play against a team that had led the league in scoring during the regular season and had scored 18 goals in the first three games of the series.
At 10:45, Quinn--who returned to the lineup four games ago--scored his first goal since Feb. 20, when he suffered a sprained right knee in a game against Baltimore. Quinn received a pass from Segota to the right of the circle and right-footed the ball into the lower left corner of the net. San Diego led, 4-0, at half.
The Sockers led by 5-2 at halftime Tuesday, but then gave up seven second-half goals. It was a different story Sunday.
The Comets cut the lead to 4-1 on a goal by Goossens at 11:04 of the third quarter. At that point, the fans, sensing a possible Comet onslaught, gave the Sockers an ovation.
With 1:46 remaining in the third quarter, Crow scored on a running left-footer from just inside the penalty arc. Fraser was draped around Crow as he fired his shot.
Comet midfielder Jens Busk made it 5-2 on a power-play goal with 8:34 remaining. The fans immediately gave the Sockers another ovation. The remainder of the evening was filled with chants of "Zolie, Zolie."
For Toth, who is 10-1 lifetime against Kansas City, beating the Comets is special.
Toth played on two championship teams with the New York Arrows in 1981 and 1982 before the team folded in 1984. The Arrows were owned by David Schoenstadt, who now owns the Comets. Toth blames Schoenstadt for the demise of the Arrows' dynasty.
After the Arrows folded, Toth signed with the Sockers as a free agent in 1984. And he has had extra incentive against the Schoenstadt-owned team ever since.
All the Sockers had extra incentive Sunday night.
Brian Quinn was ejected from the game when he received a red card for violent misconduct (five-minute penalty) with 13:16 remaining. Jan Goossens kicked Quinn, and Quinn swung at Goossens when the two were fighting for a loose ball in the corner. . . . Defender Brian Schmetzer--sidelined since April 10 with a pulled right hamstring--was expected to play Sunday, but he sprained his left ankle when he collided with Cha Cha Namdar during a morning kick-around Sunday and missed the game.