WICHITA, Kan. — The Sockers' chances were looking dismal with five minutes left in the first half Tuesday night.
The Major Indoor Soccer League's hottest team was trailing by two goals and appeared headed for its third consecutive defeat in Kansas Coliseum, home of the Wichita Wings.
But thanks to Waad Hirmez and Paul Dougherty and what Coach Ron Newman called some "magic" scoring, the Sockers tied the game by halftime, 4-4, then scored in bunches in the second half to win, 9-6.
"We got a lot of scoring from some unexpected sources," Newman said.
The result was the Sockers' fifth victory in a row, running their league-leading record to 12-5.
Both Newman and Wing Coach Charlie Cooke agreed that the last five minutes of the first half were the difference.
Hirmez's shot from 40 feet got the Sockers within one goal at 4-3. Then the Wings lost the ball in their goal mouth, and Zoran Karic flicked it to Dougherty at the left post, and he tied it.
Another factor was San Diego's ability to play the last nine minutes of the first half with five fouls.
"We didn't penetrate and properly challenge them," said Cooke, who said his players should have forced the sixth foul to get a two-minute penalty.
It was a far different game from the first two times the Sockers played at Wichita, which resulted in 5-3 and 3-2 losses.
Newman said the big difference was defender Gus Mokalis.
"I thought Gus had a great game tonight," Newman said. "I can see improvement now every game."
"I needed it because the first two times I was here I had nightmares," Mokalis said.
Dougherty appears to relish playing the Wings. He scored two goals Tuesday night and has 5 of his 11 goals this season against Wichita.
"I like the boards here," he said. "I always know what Waady is going to do. He is predictable."
Last season, Hirmez scored three goals here. Tuesday night, he had a goal in the first half and two assists during the Sockers' second-half rally. He fed Dougherty for a 7-5 lead and assisted on Karic's goal for a 9-6 lead.
Dougherty's second goal gave the Sockers a two-goal lead one minute into the fourth period. Hirmez's pass off the corner boards left Dougherty with an easy 10-foot shot. Brian Quinn had put San Diego ahead to stay, 6-5, two minutes before the end of the third period.
Referee Kenny Pratt was going to give the Sockers a restart from the penalty arc because he thought Wing goalkeeper Ziggy Zigante had illegally picked up the ball. But senior referee Gino Dippolito overruled him.
On the faceoff, Quinn won control and shot from the left boards. The ball hit the inside of the right post and bounced in off the back of Zigante's head.
"You know I think after that we thought we could win the game," Quinn said.
Wichita's Erik Rasmussen had a goal and three assists. He gave the Wings their 4-2 first-half lead, scoring from 12 feet on a pass off the corner boards from Pedro DeBrito, who was acquired as a free agent last Thursday after being released by Dallas.
The loss left Wichita with a 6-12 record, worst in the league. The Wings are the MISL's only team that has not won a road game, and the loss left them with a 6-3 home record.