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Sockers Flat at Home and Lose to Wings, 3-2

Times Staff Writer

The Sockers have lost their share of important games at home, but they rarely come up flat in those key games.

But that’s what happened in in their 3-2 loss to the Wichita Wings Wednesday night at the San Diego Sports Arena.

With the Sockers playing with a sixth attacker, San Diego forward Njego Pesa scored on a right-footer to make it 3-2 with 2:05 left in the game. But it was too little, too late.

“There was no aggression in our game,” said Socker Coach Ron Newman. “I could sense it. I don’t know if it was nervousness or what. It was blah. I could sense it in the locker room before the game. It certainly wasn’t playoff fever.”

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Said Socker defender Kevin Crow: “Guys were physically and mentally tired out there. This team performs better on the road. There is too much pressure on the inexperienced players when we play at home.

“You have to have people who say ‘I know what I’m doing’ and do it. I’ve played the ball back and gotten booed.”

Said Socker captain Jean Willrich: “I have nothing against shooting, but the shooting was so wild. Everyone wants to make four or five goals.”

So much for the Sockers’ home-field advantage. On Wednesday, they lost in front of an announced crowd of 12,217 fans.

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Wichita had not won in nine previous games at the Sports Arena, but opposing teams are pulling a lot of firsts on the Sockers this season.

“I don’t think it makes a difference playing at home,” Newman said. “Who needs it?”

The Sockers--who have lost seven of eight--are 15-10 at home. They were 21-3 at home in the 1985-86 regular season.

The Sockers are 26-25 and in fourth place. They need to beat Minnesota in their final regular-season game at home Saturday to have a chance of finishing in a tie for second in the Western Division and having the home-field advantage in the opening round of the playoffs.

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The Sockers trail the second-place Wings (27-23) by 1 1/2 games. Kansas City is 26-24 and in third place. Kansas City faces Wichita and concludes the season in Chicago Sunday. The Wings play host to Tacoma Friday and play at Kansas City Saturday. If the Sockers finish in a second-place tie with either team, they will earn the home-field edge because of their edge in the season series with both teams.

Mark Kerlin, Kim Roentved and Chico Borja scored for the Wings Wednesday. Kerlin scored on a rebound off goalkeeper Jim Gorsek to give the Wings a 1-0 lead at 4:26 of the first quarter.

Moments later, Hugo Perez displayed the type of individual offensive brilliance that the injury-riddled Sockers have been missing recently. Perez missed 17 games with a strained right knee.

After receiving a pass at midfield, Perez dribbled past three Wings, made a crossover dribble and lined a 25-footer from the right of the circle into the far corner of the net. Perez didn’t do his customary post-goal leap onto the boards, but he did race down the field waving his fist in the air.

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Wichita took a 2-1 lead on a 20-footer by Roentved at 7:29 of the second quarter. Borja scored an unassisted goal at 12:32 of the third quarter to make it 3-1.

Pesa made it 3-2. But the Sockers were penalized when they picked up their sixth foul with 57 seconds left. Despite a frantic last-minute effort by the Sockers, the Wings--led by goalkeeper Seamus McDonagh (16 saves on 25 shots) held on.

“They (Wings) were there, ripe to be taken early in the game,” Newman said. “But we couldn’t get our game going.”

Socker Notes

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Injury update: Midfielder Branko Segota (fractured right cheekbone April 10) says he plans to start running in the next couple of days and hopes to be able to play by about May 10. “That’s my estimate,” Segota said Wednesday night. “I have to talk to the doctor. He has to give the OK. Then we have to wait and see.”


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