SAN DIEGO — There was something new in the brew.
A dash of Branko Segota, a pinch of magical footwork and a touch of spark.
And suddenly the recipe appeared to be just right.
The Sockers (13-15) clubbed the Baltimore Blast, 4-1, Wednesday night at the San Diego Sports Arena before 5,985, a season low.
So today they take to the road with a few more answers, fewer questions, a two-game winning streak and caution in their minds.
"We're what, 13 and 15?" midfielder Brian Quinn said. "We should be 17 and 11. I'm still cautious. Now it's a process of continuing the level of intensity."
This was Segota's return from a six-game rest with a strained right calf, and he took pressure off the Sockers' other striking threat, forward Zoran Karic. Segota also got in the kick that pushed the Blast off the edge of a four-game winning streak, scoring with 45 seconds remaining in the third quarter to give the Sockers a comfortable 3-0 lead.
With the exception of a 6-2 victory over Dallas Sunday, the Sockers by and large have been punchless offensively during Segota's absence. Segota could only watch and think: "Poor Zoran."
"I felt sorry for him," Segota said. "He was the only forward out there who the other teams respect. He got manhandled."
Baltimore (18-11), which leads Wichita by 2 1/2 games in the Eastern Division of the Major Indoor Soccer League, made a few attempts to manhandle the Sockers (third, 3 1/2 games behind Dallas in the West). Early in the second quarter, Blast defender Rusty Troy pushed midfielder Waad Hirmez into the boards. Hirmez trotted back out holding his hands apart and directing a didn't-you-see-that? look toward the referees.
The ref saw and assessed Troy a two-minute penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct. Forty seconds later, Socker midfielder Brian Quinn performed a marvelous juggling act that resulted in a power play goal, gave the Sockers a 1-0 lead and sent them on their way.
Quinn took a rebound off the boards, juggled it to himself with his right foot and hit it with the outside of his right foot into the goal. Goalie Scott Manning watched helplessly.
Socker midfielder Jacques Ladouceur made it 2-0 5:18 into the third, taking an off-target shot by forward Jim Gabarra on the rebound and scoring with his left foot.
Segota's goal was quite a thing to witness also. He swerved around a puzzled Freddie Thompson and sent it past Manning with his right foot.
Led by goalie Zoltan Toth (6-7), who made a host of diving saves throughout the game, the Sockers foiled the Blasts' sixth-attacker offense for 4:26 in the fourth quarter. Quinn, who notched the 100th regular-season goal of his career earlier in the evening, also scored with 56 seconds left.
Defender Mike Stankovic spoiled the shutout, scoring off a corner kick from Carl Valentine with three seconds remaining following an unsportsmanlike conduct call on defender George Fernandez.
Ever the perfectionist, defender Kevin Crow wasn't completely satisfied.
"Actually, we didn't play as well as we did in the last two games," he said. "Zollie made too many saves tonight."
Many of them were on acrobatic dives. Toth said he was more focused than in his previous start last Friday, when he only made one save in a 3-2 overtime loss to Tacoma. This time he saved 16 shots.
The only sour moment came in the second quarter when Hirmez went down with a right hamstring pull. He will miss the upcoming trip.
Otherwise, things are looking much brighter.
"We played very disciplined," Segota said. "We were running, and we were fighting. I always said it just takes a little something to ignite us."
Paul Dougherty made his second appearance in San Diego as a member of the Baltimore Blast Wednesday night. A midfielder, Dougherty opted to sign with Baltimore during the off-season after the Sockers failed to match the Blasts' offer. Dougherty, a native of England who played 2 1/2 seasons with the Sockers, said he feels right at home in Baltimore. "It's totally different from San Diego," he said. "It's very similar to England." Of the Sockers' struggles, Dougherty said: "I still think San Diego has got what it takes. Come playoff time, Ron (Newman) will get them clicking together. He has so much experience in those situations." . . . Socker defender George Fernandez extended his consecutive-games streak to 108. . . . Friday's game at Kansas City begins a four-game trip, which will continue through Cleveland, Baltimore and Tacoma.