SAN DIEGO — No disco lights. No S-O-C-K-E-R-S sign. No smoke. No dramatic introductions before the Sockers' 4-1 victory over the Minnesota Strikers Sunday night.
Were the Sockers really playing at the San Diego Sports Arena?
But wait, Coach Ron Newman is being introduced without running through the "O" in the sign and without fanfare.
First, the Sockers lose the championship last year. In the home opener, the Star Spangled Banner is played instead of Kate Smith's "God Bless America." And now, a pregame tradition is eliminated.
"It was disappointing," Newman said. "It does get you going. And where was Kate Smith? She'll be fined for not being there."
Here comes Juli Veee and Branko Segota--their faces and numbers as visible as those of their opponents, who are always introduced in light and in a low-key manner.
"The decision was made that the hype is great," said Ron Cady, president of Sockers Management Inc., "but let's see if the game will sell itself. Let the fans recognize the players we have with the lights on. Hopefully, it will make the players more recognizable."
Players such as Paul Dougherty and Keder, who each scored goals in the Sockers' victory in front of 9,819. Segota and Waad Hirmez added goals for San Diego. Zoltan Toth made 14 saves on 28 shots, and Tino Lettieri made 20 saves on 36 shots.
Minnesota took a 1-0 lead in the first quarter on John O'Hara's goal. A 20-footer from the left side by Hirmez tied the score at the three-minute mark of the second quarter.
In the third quarter, Dougherty scored off the rebound of a shot by Segota to make it 2-1 at 2:05.
Toth darted to his right to deflect David Byrne's penalty kick at 6:05 of the third quarter and the Sockers killed the two-minute handball penalty on Fernando Clavijo. At 10:19, Keder scored on a tap-in, off a nice pass from Hugo Perez, who threaded a right-footer across the goal mouth.
A goal by Minnesota forward Alex Bunbury was disallowed at 3:01 of the final quarter on a handball call. On the play, Clavijo was called for holding. Just 23 seconds into Clavijo's penalty, the Sockers took a commanding lead on Segota's shorthanded goal. Segota took a lead pass from Brian Quinn, and was one-on-one with Lettieri, who came out of the goal. Segota dribbled past Lettieri and bounced a 15-footer from the right wing into the far corner of the net.
The Sockers are 3-2, 2-0 at home and 1-0 without their pregame sign.
Cady explained that the previous Socker management, under managing general partner Bob Bell, polled Socker season ticket holders last May on whether the disco-like introductions should be continued.
According to Cady, 58% said they liked the introduction and 42% either wanted a modification in the introduction or wanted it discontinued. Despite a majority in favor of the sign, Cady said the poll "set about the thought process" that led to the change.
However, Cady said the sign has not been "trashed" and it will be used again on special occasions. It was used for the home-opener Nov. 14 and will be used for playoff games and special events.
Veee didn't seem to be too upset about losing the sign.
Midfielder Hugo Perez and his agent, Mike Hogue, met with Ron Cady, president of Sockers Management Inc., last week to discuss Perez's future with the club. Perez's contract expires June 30, 1988 and he has expressed a desire to play outdoor soccer in Europe after it expires.