Hugo Perez and Fernando Clavijo could barely walk in the Socker locker room Saturday night because of pulled hamstrings.
And therein were two reasons why the Sockers were defeated in overtime by the Las Vegas Americans, 6-5, before a sellout crowd of 12,948 fans in the Sports Arena.
"We just ran out of players," Coach Ron Newman said. "Our key players like Steve Zungul, Branko Segota and Jean Willrich tried to pick up as much slack as possible. We asked too much of them. We just ran out of steam."
The Sockers were out of the game for good when Mike Fox, a Cal State Fullerton graduate, scored the game-winning goal at 1:07 of overtime.
Val Tuksa had originally kicked the ball off the glass behind the goal on the play. The ball then came out to Fox, who put a left-footed shot past goalkeeper Zoltan Toth.
"First of all, it was a shame we couldn't get to the ball quick enough," Newman said. "When the ball got to the middle, I thought we could close it off easily. We didn't."
Las Vegas has won nine straight games and 20 of its last 21. The Sockers, who handed Las Vegas its only loss during the streak, have lost their last two games after winning eight straight.
With a win, San Diego would have clinched a tie for the Western Division championship. Instead, Las Vegas pulled to within four games of the Sockers.
Las Vegas had tied the game, 5-5, on a goal by former Socker Yilmaz Orhan with 14 seconds left in regulation. Coach Don Popovic had pulled goalkeeper Alan Mayer, another former Socker, with 38 seconds remaining.
Popovic was actually confused about when to pull Mayer. With 1:00 left in the game, the arena clock then went back to 1:59. A timeout was called with 38 seconds left, although the clock showed 1:38. The officials had to explain to Popovic about the clock mixup.
"I was going to change the goalkeeper at one minute," Popovic said. "I almost screwed up the game because of the clock. I'm usually a coach who doesn't favor taking the goalkeeper out. That was the first or second time I had done it in six years. We had nothing to lose."
The Sockers had something to lose in overtime . . . a game.
And after the goal by Fox, defender George Katakalidis charged the officials. Katakalidis thought a foul should have been called on Las Vegas when Socker Jacques Ladouceur was tripped shortly before the goal.
"If the foul had been called, they wouldn't have had a chance to score," Katakalidis said. "Jacques got tripped into the boards, as if he likes going into the boards. The officials didn't give us one break the whole game."
Unlike the last time Las Vegas played in San Diego, the game was tame for the most part. Much of the reason was likely because Juli Veee of Las Vegas, who had an altercation with Zungul the last time the teams met, missed the game with a pulled hamstring.
Katakalidis and Chico Borja of Las Vegas did have a shouting match late in the third period, and both drew two-minute misconduct penalties.
"Chico is a classic South American player," Katakalidis said. "He likes too much space. If you get too close to him, he gets upset. He came and spit on me. I told him that the next time he does that, I'll bite his tongue."
Borja could not respond to the accusation. He was in the Las Vegas training room after the game with possible torn knee ligaments.
Borja had given Las Vegas the early lead by scoring 56 seconds into the game.
But the Who's Not Who among the Sockers gave their team a 2-1 lead by 8:57 of the first quarter.
Raffaele Ruotolo scored his first Major Indoor Soccer League goal at 2:22 of the period. Waad Hirmez, who was not even signed until last month, then gave San Diego its first lead at 8:57.
Las Vegas tied the game, 2-2, on Nicky Klinkarsky's goal at 10:03. Zungul actually made the goal possible by inadvertently kicking a loose ball away from Toth.
Zungul got the goal back at 6:41 of the second quarter, deflecting in a shot off Oscar Albuquerque of Las Vegas.
The Sockers took a 4-2 halftime lead on a picture-perfect goal at 7:40. The sequence went from Perez to Willrich to Segota back to Willrich for the goal.
Las Vegas scored the third quarter's only goal at 8:48 when Helmut Dudek scored off the rebound of a Godfrey Ingram shot.
The Americans tied the game, 4-4, on a goal by Dudek at 5:26 of the fourth period. Willrich gave San Diego a 5-4 lead at 8:36, but the Sockers came up 14 seconds short of holding the margin for good.