Sockers' title bid comes up short
by GREG LAUTENSLAGER, Special to The Union-Tribune
Ron Newman's lads were given little more than a prayer of winning their sixth straight professional indoor soccer title when the 1993 season started June 19 in Monterey, Mexico.
But against every adversity, the Sockers battled to the last second last night before losing to the Dallas Sidekicks , 5-4, in the third and deciding game of the first Continental Indoor Soccer League championship series.
A goal by the Sidekicks' Eric Dade from point-blank range at 12:41 of the fourth period finally silenced the Sockers in a desperately fought battle before 7,175 roaring spectators at Reunion Arena.
The Sidekicks' victory marked the Sockers' first loss in a championship series in their 15-year history. It is Dallas' first championship since 1987's victory over Tacoma, which beat San Diego in the seventh game of the Major Indoor Soccer League semifinals to end that run of five championships.
"I thought we had won another championship tonight," said Newman, the Sockers' coach. "In the record books it will read Dallas won it. But I thought we deserved to win. Their players were so much more stacked, and we took them down to the last step."
That last step was heart-wrenching. With the score tied through much of the fourth quarter, the Sidekicks kept the pressure on and threatened several times to take the lead.
Tatu, the championship-series MVP, missed five shots on goal by inches within two minutes. Only a great effort by Sockers goalie Bryan Finnerty kept the Sidekicks from scoring.
Finally, Dade found an opening on the inside. Dave Reichert slipped him a pass through a Sockers defender, and Dade was alone in front of the goal.
"I had no chance," said Finnerty. "I came out and tried to cut the angle and hope I could get a hand or a foot or whatever on it. But it went underneath me."
The Sockers never came close to scoring in the final two minutes. Most of their shots were from long range and most went into the boards or into the crowd. And desperation shots were not what the Sockers envisioned after taking an early lead.
Goals by Keder and Kevin Koetters put the Sockers ahead 2-0 in the first 10 minutes. But penalties, controversial calls and a thunderous partisan crowd helped the Sidekicks get back in it.
Seconds after Keder sprinted out of the penalty box, Tatu sent a pass to Beto, who slammed it into the net at 13:06 of the first quarter. Second-quarter goals by David Doyle and Mike Powers put the Sidekicks ahead 3-2 at the half.
Dan Kelly and Koetters gave the Sockers a 4-3 lead going into the final period, but Powers tied it at 3:02.
"The referees let them back into the game on some strange calls," Newman said. "People have been trying to take this championship away from us for years. We know that in their minds, they (referees) want somebody else to win the championship."
Few gave the Sockers even a chance to come this close when the season started. San Diego had only three players back from last year's MSL champion. When Thompson Usiyan, the Sockers' leading scorer and last year's championship series MVP, was suspended for the rest of the season for pushing a referee Aug. 29, the Sockers' chances looked even more grim.
San Diego made the finals against Dallas, a team with six returnees and a team whose only two losses in its last 22 regular-season games were in shoot-outs.
"The lads played against all odds," Newman said. "This would have been my best title, because of the boys I got. They didn't even think we'd be in the finals this year. But against all that, we were in it until the very last second."
The team returns to San Diego today. It is to arrive at 12:02 p.m. on America West flight 851.