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Socker Talk Loose After Game 3 Loss : Everybody Is Blaming Everybody Else for Their Upsetting Defeat

Times Staff Writer

Socker midfielder Juli Veee said there was a time early this season when San Diego Coach Ron Newman joked that the only thing that could stop the Sockers from their fifth straight indoor soccer championship was their coach.

A number of disenchanted Sockers, led by Veee, probably wouldn’t find Newman’s comment funny now.

Things got serious after Wednesday’s 8-7 loss to St. Louis. Friday, the players were in a mood to talk. Tonight, they play Game 4 of the Sockers’ Major Indoor Soccer League quarterfinal playoff series against the Steamers.

All this commotion despite the fact that the Sockers still lead the best-of-five series, two games to one, and, under Newman, they have won four straight indoor titles.

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“Sometimes you have to lose to get everybody to talk,” Socker captain Jean Willrich said.

And talk they did, about . . .

Topic 1: Do the Sockers have a leader?

“We need someone to be the leader,” Segota said. “We don’t have anybody doing what Steve (Zungul) did last year. I try to tell people when they make mistakes, but nobody seems to listen.”

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Said Quinn: “Ron has encouraged equality, but there has to be a hierarchy of respect. The people who should be leaders haven’t been delegated authority. Young players come in and make excuses, and Ron backs them.”

Said Veee: “If I say something or Jean (Willrich) says something, the players should show some respect.

“He (Newman) doesn’t want me to be in a position where I’m dominant. He feels threatened.”

Newman, asked Friday night to respond to the players’ charges, said: “They haven’t talked to me about any of this. They are not brave enough to. . . . The players that complain should look directly in the mirror. They are not ready to blame themselves.”

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Topic 2: Who is controlling play on the field?

“The leading players should control what the other players do,” Veee said. “Now, the dogs control what the leading players do.”

Veee was particularly upset because he did not play in the final quarter of Wednesday night’s loss.

Despite a case of food poisoning, Veee played the first half and part of the third quarter. After the Sockers took a 6-3 lead, he was never re-inserted.

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“I didn’t leave the game because I couldn’t go on,” Veee said. “It was a playoff game with everything on the line. An experienced player like me should get more time.”

Instead of playing Veee (23 goals and 31 assists in 33 regular-season games), Newman rotated Hugo Perez, Jacques Ladouceur and Cha Cha Namdar at the midfield position.

Newman said he replaced Veee because Veee was sick and he wasn’t playing at the top of his game that night.

“A player with Veee’s experience should be in the game in the final minutes,” Segota said.

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With the Sockers leading, 7-6, in the final quarter, Veee said he asked Newman to put him in the game.

“It was panic time,” Veee said. “I said maybe I could do something.”

Imagine what the Sockers would be like if they were losing the series.

Topic 3: The defense or lack of a defense.

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“The guys on defense have to concentrate on defense and not on scoring points,” Willrich said. “Our defenders should stay back and play the ball.

“Maybe some people have it in their contract to get points, but the key is to win ballgames.”

San Diego led the MISL in fewest goals allowed with 195 in 48 regular-season games. In the past three games against a St. Louis team that is not noted for its offensive prowess, the Sockers have given up 17 goals.

“Now, everybody wants to be the star,” said Veee, “and a lot of them don’t have the capabilities. There are too many chiefs. Somebody has to do the running.”

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In recent games, Socker defenders have been pushing the ball up the field more than usual, which has often resulted in four-on-three and three-on-two advantages for the Steamers.

Said midfielder Brian Quinn: “Everybody would like to be a hero, but you can’t have that.”

Defender George Katakalidis has a different perspective on why the Steamers have 17 goals in three games.

“The midfielders and forwards aren’t coming back and checking,” Katakalidis said. “But I don’t think you can blame or criticize one specific person. We’ve been successful because we play as a team.

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“The problem is we haven’t played with intensity in this series. It’s tough when you go into a series having proven you can blow out the opposing team.”

San Diego won five of six regular-season meetings with St. Louis and defeated the Steamers by scores of 8-2, 11-4 and 10-7.

“In the playoffs,” Katakalidis said, “we’re not pushing ourselves. “Then, all of sudden , it’s a tie game. At times we’re playing well, but at times we’re playing horrendous.”

Said midfielder Branko Segota: “Talent is not enough if you don’t work. We have to start working for each other. If we continue to play the way we’re playing, it will be very hard.”

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