Sockers Collapse in Fourth Quarter to Lose to Comets

Times Staff Writer

The Kansas City Comets are a great come-from-behind team, but what they did against the Sockers Friday night at Kemper Arena bordered on the miraculous.

The Sockers have blown some big leads in big games, but their collapse Friday bordered on the unbelievable.

In Game 3 of the Western Division finals, the Sockers led the Comets, 6-2, at the start of the fourth quarter. But Kansas City scored four goals in the final quarter--including three within a span of 2 minutes 53 seconds--to send their crowd of 9,069 fans into a frenzy and force the game into overtime.

At 13:57 of overtime, Comet forward Dale Mitchell scored on a 25-footer from the right corner to give the Comets a 7-6 victory and a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series. Games 4 and 5 will be played at Kansas City Sunday and next Saturday.

Call the Comets the Comeback Kids. They rallied from fourth-quarter deficits to win eight times during the regular season. In Game 1 against the Sockers, the Comets rallied from a 4-2 third-quarter deficit to win, 5-4, on Barry Wallace's goal with 10 seconds remaining.

"We've done it so many times this year, but I didn't think being down 6-2 to San Diego we could," Mitchell said.

Said Kevin Crow of the Sockers: "We don't have the killer instinct like a championship team. You have to bury them. They've got five or six guys who can finish. They don't miss. We can't afford to relax in our own end."

Sockers Coach Ron Newman said: "It was not them going. It was us stopping. We have players who can't play under pressure.

"When it gets real tough, we don't have the energies and fortitude to fight through it. I thought players were disappearing from the game."

One Socker, who asked not to be identified, wondered why Newman did not call a timeout during the Comets' fourth-quarter rally.

"Where's the help?," asked the player. "The calling of a timeout? Saying to the guys, 'We have to win this game.' "

Said Newman: "I was trying to tell them to use a timeout. I wanted Zoalie (Toth) to use it when he felt under pressure.

"There were not many changes I could make. We didn't have the players to slow it down. Players were panicking under pressure."

The Comets came back early in the fourth quarter after San Diego built the four-goal lead on three goals by Waad Hirmez, two by Branko Segota and one by Crow. The Sockers were playing beautifully and were in control.

Then came the onslaught.

At 3:07 of the fourth quarter, Comet forward Tasso Koutsoukos scored on a header to make it 6-3.

"At 6-3, it was very possible (to come back)," Comet Coach Dave Clements said. "In the fourth quarter we were starting to win tackles, win 50-50 balls. And we've seen anything can happen this year."

At 5:29, forward David Doyle poked in a rebound of a shot by Duncan MacEwan to make it 6-4.

Just 31 seconds later, forward Jan Goossens scored on a turnaround right footer from just inside the penalty area on the left side.

Suddenly, it was 6-5.

"We play a wide open game when we're up 6-3," said Toth, who allowed all seven Comet goals. "We're taking a risk when defenders go up to score goals."

At 10:09, Wallace--unmarked and in his favorite shooting spot--received a pass off a restart and scored on a 30-footer from the left wing to tie the score.

It was all Kansas City, but with three minutes to play in regulation, Mayer made a key save on a blast by Segota.

The game went into overtime.

San Diego had the first really good scoring opportunity on a left-footer by Brian Quinn that Mayer saved.

The Sockers had a two-minute power play when Mayer was called for holding Zoran Karic, but failed to capitalize on it.

The Comets had a two-minute power play when Toth was called for a handball after he had come out of the penalty area. But Toth made a key save on a shot by Damir Haramina and the Comets failed to score.

Then came Mitchell's winning shot that ended the fourth-longest playoff game in MISL history.

"I was trying to put it on target," Mitchell said. "It was a tough angle and I was just trying to hit the net. I looked up and there was nobody open in the middle.

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