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Injury Jinx Hits Socker Goalkeeper : Gorsek Out of Playoffs With Broken Finger, Leaving Job to Toth

Times Staff Writer

Zoltan Toth wanted to know the maximum number of games the Sockers could have remaining in the playoffs.

He answered his own question.

“The worst is 13,” said the superstitious Socker goalkeeper. “Now there is double weight on me.”

That’s because Toth has suddenly gone from being part of a duet to being a solo act.

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Late Friday night, after the Sockers had pulled out a 6-5 victory over the Tacoma Stars in the opener of the Western Division final, many of the Sockers were relaxing in the hotel restaurant when they received the news.

The Socker injury jinx had struck again. Goalkeeper Jim Gorsek will miss the remainder of the playoffs with a fractured middle finger on his left hand. Earlier this season, Gorsek broke a bone in the same hand, forcing him to miss five weeks.

Gorsek was injured Friday night when someone stepped on his hand in the second quarter. He did not play in the second half and had X-rays taken after the game.

“It’s frustrating,” said Gorsek, staring at his finger, which was in a splint. He was also in pain and was shaking his head a lot Saturday morning. “This is what you wait all season for. That’s when we all come together as a team. The championship is ready to be taken, and something fluky like this happens. It’s frustrating.”

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Gorsek returned to San Diego Saturday, and is expected to undergo surgery Thursday. If the injury had occurred during the season, Gorsek would need about six to eight weeks after the operation before he could play again.

“It happened on the third goal,” Gorsek said. “At halftime, Kevin (Crow) said maybe he stepped on my hand.”

The third Star goal was scored by Gregg Blasingame at 9:40 of the second quarter, but Gorsek played the remainder of the half.

“If only it was another kind of break, " Gorsek said, “somehow I’d get it wrapped and play.”

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The break occurred in the joint, meaning that Gorsek can’t play without risking considerable additional damage, said Bill Taylor, Socker trainer.

Without Gorsek, Toth is the man on the spot. Socker Coach Ron Newman said he might try to pick up a backup goalkeeper.

Newman mentioned 38-year-old Hubert Birkenmeier, a former world-class goalkeeper who played with the New York Cosmos, Chicago Sting and New York Express. After the Express folded earlier this season, he signed a 10-day contract with the Los Angeles Lazers.

Birkenmeier, who has a commitment to a club soccer team, told Newman by telephone Saturday that he would like to play with the Sockers and would give Newman his decision today.

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John Barretta, who played with Tacoma last season and had a 10-day contract with the Lazers this season, is another possibility.

Newman said he would call Lazer Coach Keith Tozer Saturday to ask about goalkeepers in the American Indoor Soccer League. Tozer coached the Louisville Thunder before joining the Lazers.

What about Chris Mira, the Sockers’ reserve team goalkeeper?

Mira, 25, played soccer at Southern Connecticut State and has never played in a Major Indoor Soccer League game. He suited up for six games when Gorsek was injured earlier this season.

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“I couldn’t risk going with him (Mira) if Zolie got hurt,” Newman said. “I need someone with more experience.”

Nothing will be done in time for Sunday’s game, said Newman, who will use defender Brian Schmetzer as his backup goalkeeper.

“I have to make sure I don’t get hurt,” Toth said. “I have to watch myself and don’t go that hard in the box.”

Toth played 10 straight games when Gorsek was hurt in the middle of the season. In 33 regular-season games, he is 17-13 with a team-record 3.52 goals-against average.

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In the playoffs, Toth is 3-1 with a 4.32 goals-against average. He played part of the final quarter of the Sockers’ third game against Kansas City and started and won the fourth and fifth games against the Comets. In the second half against Tacoma Friday, he made five saves on 11 shots and allowed only two goals.

One of the two goals was scored off a direct kick by his former New York Arrow and Socker teammate Steve Zungul, who taunts Toth unmercifully.

“After Steve scored,” Toth said, “he said he’d score four more goals. I said, ‘Steve, there is not so much time left.’ ”

Zungul has a way of getting under Toth’s skin. And that was a big reason why Toth used to have trouble against the Stars.

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“We needed to get Zolie anti-Zungul lenses,” Newman said. “He could see all the players through the lenses except Zungul.”

A typical Zungul move: “He shows you his hand before the game,” Toth said. “When I reach for it, he pulls it back and laughs. He wants to make me mad. He wants to be ahead by the small things he does.”

Toth, who has tried to ignore Zungul, has learned to deal with him.

“He bugs you all the time,” Toth said. “I know he wants to do this. I prepare myself.”

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Now Toth is preparing himself to try to become the only goalkeeper to win five MISL championships. He has won two with the Arrows and two with the Sockers.

Socker Notes

Bill Kentling, Major Indoor Soccer League commissioner, said he will not announce the amount of Stars Coach Alan Hinton’s fine until Wednesday. Kentling fined Hinton Friday for comments made about Socker Coach Ron Newman that appeared in that day’s Tacoma News Tribune.


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