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Toth Readies for First All-Star Start : Benched by Newman, Goalkeeper Given Choice in Tacoma

February 17, 1988|MARC APPLEMAN | Times Staff Writer

TACOMA, Wash. — Socker goalkeeper Zoltan Toth was benched by Coach Ron Newman Sunday night, but Toth is starting in the Major Indoor Soccer League All-Star Game tonight in Tacoma.

You figure it out.

Toth was disappointed Sunday night, but the top goalkeeper in the MISL this season again felt appreciated Monday morning.

Moments after Toth arrived in his hotel in Tacoma, Western Division Coach Alan Hinton told him he had the choice of starting or playing the second half of tonight's 10th All-Star game at the Tacoma Dome (7:35).

"I told Zoalie to talk to Mike (Dowler, Tacoma goalkeeper) about it," Hinton said. "But it was up to him because he got the most votes."

Toth is 10-5 and leads the league with a 3.05 goals-against average.

"Zoalie's saved our butt a million times this year," Socker defender Kevin Crow said.

Dowler is tied for the league lead in victories (15) with Tino Lettieri of Minnesota and All-Star Chris Vaccaro of Chicago. Dowler leads the league in games played with 32 and in saves with 394.

Toth and Dowler discussed the situation, and Toth said he will make his first All-Star game start. It's the fourth MISL All-Star appearance for Toth, who was voted one of the top two goalkeepers on the MISL First Decade All-Star team.

At Tuesday's All-Star luncheon, Toth wore a tuxedo and a big smile while receiving his honor along with the rest of the First Decade team.

"Can you believe this?" he said.

Toth said the same thing after Sunday's game, but in a very different context.

It was Toth's turn in the rotation to start, but he was benched against Kansas City by Newman, who said last week that Toth appeared "nervous" in allowing nine goals in two straight losses at home.

"Every morning when I read the newspaper I have to go for the dictionary to look up a new word," Toth said. "What is this 'jittery?' "

Now he knows the meaning.

Said Toth: "When I try not to be jittery, I'm sleeping on the field. I like to be nervous because I'm playing better."

One thing Toth doesn't like is to have to sit out after a couple of sub-par performances. He wants to get right back in there, which is what made Sunday's unexpected rest even more annoying.

"Any sort of change might benefit him," Newman said Sunday.

Newman said the primary reason Toth didn't play was that he wanted to break the rotation whereby Toth was starting most of the home games (10 of 15 at home) and Jim Gorsek most of the road games (12 of 16 before Sunday). This way, Toth would start two of the three games on the Sockers' trip beginning Friday in Baltimore.

"And as Zoalie was playing in the All-Star game, it wouldn't matter if Jimmy played two straight," Newman said.

Therefore, Newman started Gorsek, who had won 10 straight before losing to the Comets, 5-4, in overtime.

Toth didn't buy Newman's reasoning.

"He (Newman) said I play too much at home," Toth said Monday morning. "It was the two bad goals against Wichita (a 7-4 loss last Wednesday). I think that is the main reason I didn't play.

"It's a bad make-up saying he's trying to save me for the All-Star game."

Toth is 1-2 with a 6.84 goals-against average in four All-Star games, but it's last year's 6-5 loss in overtime that really rankles him.

"I'll never forget that," Toth said.

The Western Division was leading, 5-4, with 20 seconds to play in regulation. The Eastern team was playing with a sixth attacker.

"We're winning, (Steve) Zungul is going to be the MVP," Toth said.

It would have been the first All-Star MVP award for Zungul, a longtime friend of Toth's who is making his record eighth All-Star appearance this year and has won just about every other MISL award.

Suddenly, a shot by Lazer defender Chris Whyte, who played for the New York Express in the Eastern Division last season, bounced off Toth's chest.

"I wanted to grab it," Toth said. "If I grab it, the game is over."

Toth remembers the ball bouncing to Michael Collins, who passed to Mike Stankovic.

Stankovic scored with 20 seconds remaining. Stankovic, a last-minute replacement for injured Brian Quinn, is Toth's roommate at the All-Star game this year.

In overtime, Cleveland Force midfielder Kai Haaskivi scored the game-winner after 32 seconds.

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