Perez Says Goodby to Sockers : Midfielder Leaves as Team Travels to Minnesota for Game 3

Times Staff Writer

Players come and go, but some teams are affected more by the loss than others.

Without Kevin McReynolds last October, the Padres were lacking in power--and certainly lacking in performance--when they lost the World Series.

Now the Sockers are going to learn what postseason play is like without a key man. Hugo Perez has left for the U.S. national team, so the Sockers must do without him for the duration of the playoffs.

Life without Perez begins at 5:35 tonight against Minnesota in Game 3 of the Major Indoor Soccer League semifinals. The Sockers will be seeking their second straight series sweep of the 1984-85 postseason.


“Nobody is irreplaceable,” owner Bob Bell said of Perez. “The bottom line is if a guy doesn’t want to be here and believes something else is more important, maybe that’s where he ought to be. We did well without him for half of the season.”

The Sockers were 16-5 without Perez, who missed two months over a contract dispute. However, including playoffs, they were 26-6 with him.

“Without him, you are looking at a midfield that will struggle,” Minnesota goalkeeper Tino Lettieri said. “Hugo and Branko (Segota) are their dribblers. It will be to our advantage if Hugo doesn’t play.”

Perez began training Thursday with the U.S. national team, which resumes World Cup qualifying competition Wednesday in St. Louis against Trinidad-Tobago. The Sockers were hoping Perez could return later in the playoffs, but he has decided not to.


“I don’t want to keep going back and forth,” Perez said after Wednesday’s 6-5 overtime win against Minnesota. “I want to concentrate on one thing, and my decision was the national team.”

Without Perez, the Sockers needed to determine who would be their new attacking midfielder.

Before Wednesday’s game, assistant coach Johan Aarnio said Jacques Ladouceur would fill the role of Perez and Steve Daley would be a defensive midfielder. But Thursday, Aarnio said Daley would be the attacker and Ladouceur the defender on their shift.

“We have Steve Zungul and Ade Coker up front to score goals,” Aarnio said. “Steve Daley’s job is as a specialist. He can put the ball into the net, plus he is up front to do defensive work when we need it. If you recall, he had a very good game when we lost at Minnesota during the season.”

Daley had two assists when the Sockers lost at Minnesota, 9-5, on March 26. However, Perez scored four of the team’s five goals that night.

Perez has been among San Diego’s best scorers this season. He had 23 goals and 14 assists in 27 regular-season games and seven goals and one assist in five playoff games. He is the only Socker to have scored a goal in every playoff game.

Meanwhile, Daley was sidelined for a month with a strained right calf muscle before returning Wednesday. Daley had four goals and nine assists in 39 regular-season games.

When Daley returned Wednesday, he played sparingly and did not score. He was fit to play in Sunday’s 8-1 win against Minnesota, but Coach Ron Newman decided not to suit him. Only 16 players can be on the roster each game.


“We’ll miss Hugo because he scores a lot of goals,” goalkeeper Jim Gorsek said. “We still have Ade Coker, who can score in his place. But when Hugo’s on a streak like he is now, you don’t want to lose him.”

Socker Notes

Coach Ron Newman remained in San Diego Thursday with his wife, Olive, who is recovering from cancer surgery. It is uncertain whether Newman will join the team tonight. . . . Minnesota has won nine straight home games. But unless the streak reaches 11 games, the Striker season will end this weekend. “I don’t think we’re going to be packing it in,” Tino Lettieri said. “I think the series will go back to San Diego (for Game 5). Let’s be realistic. San Diego has a great team, but we’re on our home ground now.” . . . The Sockers have won nine straight games, 17 of 19, 24 of 28 and 28 of 33. They are 24-2 in all-time playoff action and have won 11 straight. Their playoff road record is 8-2. . . . Jean Willrich said he scored the winning goal Wednesday while using Kevin Crow’s shoes. Willrich said he wore a pair of new shoes in the first half, but he borrowed from Crow because the new shoes were too tight. . . . Tonight’s game will be simulcast by KLZZ (600) and Channel 51. Randy Hahn will call the play-by-play, and Laurie Abrahams of the Kansas City Comets will provide the color. Abrahams is a former Socker.