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Sockers' Collins Considers Quitting : Soccer: Defender says he's "just not into it." His comments surprise Coach Ron Newman.

December 25, 1991|JOHN GEIS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SAN DIEGO — Sockers' defender Ben Collins hasn't told his teammates yet, but the most valuable player last season's ninth championship drive is contemplating a midseason retirement.

"It used to be when you stopped a Preki or a Tatu, you would feel real proud. But this season it's not the same," Collins said. "I'm just not having fun like I did last year. It has become like a job and for some reason, I'm just not into it."

So Collins, who has spoken with Coach Ron Newman about his disenchantment, will take a week off after the team concludes a four-game stretch in the next 11 days that begins with a game at Cleveland on Thursday (4:30 p.m., Cable Sports Network).

The news, however, came as a surprise to Newman.

"Why he would say that, I don't know," the Coach said. "There was a time a few weeks ago when we had to let (fellow Liberia native) Zico Doe go, and Ben seemed to take that personally. We had a talk and I told him, 'That's a part of the game you're in.'

"And after that he seemed to be fine. Last week he said he was back to his old self. I'm surprised he brought this up again."

Collins said he was bothered when his friend Doe was released, but he got over it after a few days. He didn't want to bring up his situation again because he didn't want to detract from a winning streak.

His loss of enthusiasm, however, has continued and he has talked things over with his wife, Carmen Josie, who he said advised him there is no reason to stay in the Major Soccer League if he isn't enjoying his career.

"I'm listening to people and they are telling me that if I'm not having fun anymore, it's time to get out," Collins said. "So I'm thinking about hanging everything up and finding something else to do."

Collins, who said he has been contemplating a career in law enforcement, insisted he is not merely trying to gain leverage to rework his contract, which calls for a $29,000 salary this season, up $2,000 from last season.

"It's not money," he said. "That has nothing to do with it. I don't get mad because someone else makes more money than I do."

Collins acknowledged that while he struggles with the decision, his on-field performance suffers. Before injuries hobbled him, Collins enjoyed back-to-back 50-point seasons with the Chicago Sting in 1986-87 and '87-88.

But he appeared to regain that form last year. Despite being shifted to defender, he scored 20 goals and assisted on 13 others, then kicked in seven goals and assisted on four more in 11 playoff games, a performance which earned him MVP honors.

This year his production has tailed off to four goals and as many assists in 13 games.

Perhaps most noticeable in Collins' play is his sudden inability to convert shootouts.

After winning the job midway through last season, Collins made good on two of three shootouts the rest of the way and then was perfect on three attempts during the playoffs.

This season Collins scored on his first shootout, then missed the next two before Coach Ron Newman relieved him with Thompson Usiyan.

"My head just wasn't in the game," Collins said.

If things don't turn around, these next four games may be Collins' last.

"I always told my wife I would like to play soccer until I was 50 because I liked the game so much. But I'm just not enjoying it anymore."

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