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THE REACTIONS : Commentary : MISL Blows This Call in Major Way

Times San Diego County Sports Editor

Major Indoor Soccer League?

The word “major” deserves italics and the entire league deserves a question mark. It is certainly strange how winners are determined in the MISL.

Let me tell you about Game 4 of the semifinal playoffs Sunday night in Minnesota, and then you tell me what any of it has to do with the sport of soccer. Someone tell me. Please.

I watched the Sockers and the Minnesota Strikers battle through four quarters, and come away with a tie, 3-3. I watched them battle through 15 minutes of overtime, and come away with a tie, 3-3.

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In any other sport, it would have been nothing short of a classic confrontation. The tension was exhausting, even to a viewer watching with beer in hand from halfway across a continent.

However, MISL rules dictate that the soccer stop after 75 minutes. The game degenerates into what is known as a “shootout,” where athletes from each team take solo shots at the opposing goalkeeper.

How can soccer, which prides itself on being the ultimate team game, let such an important match be decided by individual heroics? It was an important match, wasn’t it?

If a National Football League playoff game reaches the end of an overtime period with the score tied, would the place-kickers start from the 20 and keep kicking until one of them missed?

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That’s what a shootout equates to.

If the sport is soccer, let it be decided by playing soccer. Anything less is a travesty.

And so it was the Sockers who won that travesty Sunday night, the shootout extending to the 14th round before Steve Zungul beat Tino Lettieri and Jim Gorsek stopped John Bain.

I will concede the shootout was dramatic. But it wasn’t soccer.

Both drained and elated, the Sockers did a header into a couple of cases of champagne. They had qualified for the MISL finals, and would be home Friday night against the winner of the Baltimore-Cleveland series.

We know by now that nothing was the way it seemed Sunday night. We know by now that the Sockers had used an ineligible player during the 13th round of the shootout.

We know by now the Sockers lost.

Why? Because the MISL decided they had lost. It upheld a protest by Minnesota and sent the series into a fifth and deciding game tonight at the Sports Arena.

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This was a soccer match lost by one team after a contrived tiebreaker and then lost by the other on a telephone conference call the next day.

Where have you gone, Pele?

Naturally, there was some confusion during the course of the shootout. If soccer rules no longer applied, what applied?

Ron Newman, the Sockers’ coach, wasn’t sure. He asked the officials what he could or couldn’t do. He did what they said he could do--and what he did was the basis of the upheld protest.

How in the world can the Sockers lose a game when they were playing according to rules interpreted for them by the men officiating that game?

If anything, the game should have been resumed from the point of protest. The American League did it with the celebrated Pine Tar Game in 1983. Kansas City flew to New York on an off-day for all of the 10 minutes it took to finish. And that was for a regular season game.

If I’m not mistaken, a playoff game is supposed to be a rather consequential event. These playoffs have been cheapened.

They should load these two teams onto an airplane and send them back to Minnesota. They should start at the point where the rules were misinterpreted and finish the shootout. Even if it wasn’t soccer, that was where the Sockers and Strikers were when they lost their way.

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It might be an eight-hour round-trip for five minutes, but that would be the major league way to do it. Otherwise, let’s rename it the Indoor Soccer League. Let the big guys call themselves major.


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