For the second straight game, the Sockers thought they earned their way into the Major Indoor Soccer League championship series Tuesday night.
But something was different this time. The Sockers really are going to the finals after beating Minnesota, 7-0, in Game 5 of their semifinal series at the San Diego Sports Arena.
The Sockers had thought they clinched the series in Game 4 Sunday when they beat the Strikers, 4-3, at Minnesota. But in a ruling Monday, MISL Commissioner Francis Dale overturned the Socker victory because he said that the Sockers’ Jacques Ladouceur had been ineligible to participate in the shootout which decided the match.
Nobody was protesting the win this time. Not Dale, not the Striker front office, not even Tino Lettieri’s stuffed parrot which sits in the back of the Minnesota goal.
The Sockers knocked the stuffings out of the parrot early, scoring five goals in the first half. In the second half, the Sockers continued to pour out their frustration about having to play the game.
“All we imagined was that their goalkeeper wasn’t a parrot,” Coach Ron Newman said. “We imagined that the goalkeeper was the commissioner.”
Jim Gorsek, the game’s other goalkeeper, recorded the third shutout in the 132-game playoff history of the MISL. Alan Mayer, then with the Sockers, shut out Baltimore in the first two games of the 1982-83 championship series.
Gorsek will likely be in goal when the Sockers begin the MISL championship series Friday night against Baltimore at the Sports Arena. Gorsek said he would have a “surprise” for the fans Friday, but he wouldn’t give details.
In Tuesday’s game, Gorsek said he was thinking shutout for the last four or five minutes. It became particularly difficult to achieve when Kevin Crow was given an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty with 1:29 to play. Gorsek made two outstanding saves in the time that remained, then he threw the ball in the air as the game ended. It was his first career shutout.
“We wanted to get our respect back by not letting them score,” Gorsek said. “We wanted to get that team by as much as we could. The best way to do it was by shutting them out.”
Lettieri’s shutout was ruined 2:25 into the game by Jean Willrich. Things only got worse from there for Lettieri, both on the field and from the 10,059 fans.
When Lettieri wasn’t having a running battle with the fans, he was getting it from the Sockers. Lettieri’s worst humiliation came when Kevin Crow laughed at him after scoring Socker goal No. 5. Lettieri responded by trying to slap Crow in back of the head.
“He can dish it out,” Crow said, “but he can’t take it.”
Lettieri: “That’s part of the game. It’s all emotion. Crow doesn’t score many goals. He had reason to be excited.”
Both players drew two-minute misconduct penalties. There were to be three more misconduct penalties, two on the Sockers.
But the penalties were of little consequence. What mattered was that the Sockers had gotten even with Francis Dale’s decision--and Lettieri.
“Nobody likes the way (Lettieri) is,” Branko Segota said. “He does a lot of silly things behind your back. You didn’t see him doing any of that tonight.”
Before the game, Minnesota should have warmed up to the song “Every Breath You Take.” Every move the Strikers made was booed so much one would have thought it was a Charger-Raider game.
Willrich quickly turned the boos for Minnesota into cheers for the Sockers with two goals in the first 6:43. He scored first from 35 feet out after stealing the ball from Gary Etherington. On the second goal, Willrich came off the bench, took a pass from Brian Quinn and dribbled a 30 footer past Lettieri.
Segota set up San Diego’s third goal with a steal at midfield. He dribbled to the top of the goalie’s box, passed to Steve Zungul, who passed back to Segota who passed back to Zungul for the goal.
It became a four-goal lead on Segota’s second goal at 3:44 of the second quarter. Crow made it 5-0 at 8:03 before getting the last laugh on Lettieri.
Kaz Deyna scored the third quarter’s only goal at 12:59. Before the ball returned to play, the entire crowd flapped its wings at Lettieri. Minnesota’s goalie responded by clapping for the crowd and flapping his own wings.
Brian Schmetzer continued Lettieri’s downfall with a goal at 1:32 of the fourth quarter. Schmetzer pointed at Lettieri after the goal, and the crowd got the point by cheering loudly.