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Sockers Finish Off Comets After Slow Start : Crow’s Goal Provides the Impetus for Fifth Consecutive Victory, 5-2

After playing like a team still on vacation in the first half, the Sockers came back to defeat the Kansas City Comets, 5-2, Monday in front of 6,820 at the San Diego Sports Arena.

Since the Dec. 17 return of Branko Segota, the Sockers have 5 consecutive victories.

With the victory, the Sockers (8-7) moved into sole possession of third place in the Major Indoor Soccer League behind Baltimore and Dallas. Kansas City is 5-12.

Early on, Socker Coach Ron Newman had to wonder if he had made the right decision giving his team the weekend off after an 8-7 victory at Wichita Friday night. The offense struggled to penetrate a defense that collapsed in on its own goal after the Comets took a 1-0 lead in the first quarter.

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“The first half we didn’t look sharp,” Newman said. “It looked like maybe I made a mistake and gave them too much vacation time. It showed. We had to sort of get ourselves out of the doldrums.”

Once they did, things were fine. Kansas City slipped quietly out of the game and the Sockers took charge.

“You’re not going to lose 1-nil,” Socker midfielder Brian Quinn said. “Once you get the first one, you can always get the second one.”

And so it happened. Trailing, 1-0, at halftime, the Sockers uncorked a new offense in the third quarter and the Comets went flat. Kevin Crow tied the score with a bounce shot from inside the goalie box off a crossing pass from Steve Zungul.

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Crow’s goal pulled the Sockers out of their slumber, and from then on they made easy work of the Comets, whose defense struggled the rest of the way. Zoran Karic sent a 40-foot shot through three Comet defenders less than a minute later, giving the Sockers a 2-1 lead. Then, near the close of the third quarter, Paul Dougherty helped the Sockers take advantage of a power play when he scored his first goal of the season after the ball bounced around like a pinball for several seconds in front of the Kansas City goal.

So the Sockers returned to the form they hope will be common in 1989.

Segota helped breathe life back into the Sockers’ struggling offense. In the 10 games Segota missed this season, the Sockers scored 27 goals. In the 5 games since his return, the Sockers have scored 29.

Segota didn’t score Monday but Newman said his presence alone helps the offense.

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“I think Branko came in and helped us out of a goal-scoring slump,” Newman said. “We weren’t playing bad, but we began to not believe in ourselves when it came to putting the ball in the net.”

The belief and the fun appear to have returned, though Newman and veteran forward Zungul didn’t completely agree on the manner it should be enjoyed. Zungul and Newman had several arguments on the sideline regarding the amount of time the starters should be left in the game. Newman would have liked Zungul and other starters to come out of the game after the Sockers put the game away.

“Just little silly things,” Zungul said. “He wants to play the game to perfection all the way.”

No hard feelings, says Newman.

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“It’s always forgotten afterward,” Newman said. “His concern is to win games and mine is to win games. I certainly don’t mind him disagreeing with me.”

Socker goalie Victor Nogueira looked impressive in his second consecutive start. Nogueira was 0-3 at the beginning of the season. Monday he made several diving saves in the second half to keep Kansas City from getting back in the game.

The first half included a rare appearance by the Kansas City defense. Baltimore is the only other team to be shut out by Kansas City in a half this season.

The Sockers’ offensive difficulties in the first half were made worse by Comet goalie Ed Gettemeier, who made diving saves twice to foil attempts by Poli Garcia and Zoran Karic.

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Kansas City’s first score came 2:24 into the game when Tom Kain passed off the wall and forward David Doyle punched it into the top of the goal from the upper left corner of the penalty box. The Comets didn’t score again until late in the fourth quarter. By then, the game had been decided.

The Sockers’ final goals came in the fourth quarter, Cacho scoring with an assist from Crow and Karic scoring his second on an assist from Cacho.

But it was the first 2 goals that set the tone of the game, Zungul said.

“After 2-1,” Zungul said, “I thought we had them all the way.”

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