Life as the Major Indoor Soccer League's second-place team couldn't be any better these days for the Sockers.
The Sockers rolled past another victim at the Sports Arena Sunday night, putting away the Los Angeles Lazers with such ease that Branko Segota was able to rest his ailing thigh in the second half, and goalkeeper Victor Nogueira was able to watch the final 7 minutes from the bench.
The Sockers' 8-1 victory in front of 7,714 was their fourth in their last five games and kept them 4 1/2 games behind the first-place Baltimore Blast. With the way the Sockers are scoring goals recently, though, it's possible the Blast could be reeled in.
Sunday's explosion made it 34 goals in four games for the Sockers, and it marked the first time since 1983 the Sockers have scored eight or more goals in four consecutive games.
Speaking of 1983, that was the year of the Sockers' first indoor championship. A seventh title could come this year if the Sockers continue to play the way they have lately.
Coach Ron Newman, of course, isn't making any such boasts at this stage of the season, but he is smiling a lot more these days.
"We are looking a little like world-beaters right now," Newman said.
And, chances are, it's only going to get better. The Sockers' recent surge has come while both leading goal-scorer Zoran Karic and all-star midfielder Brian Quinn have been sidelined with injuries.
"What I'm happiest about is that the players who are filling in for our injured players are doing such such a good job," Newman said.
Against the Lazers, Ralf Wilhelms and Paul Wright--who both played only part time for much of the season--contributed goals. Wilhelms' goal, scored 5 minutes into the game, started the Sockers on their merry way.
Before the first half was over, Waad Hirmez had celebrated two more goals--he now has six in three games since rejoining the team--and Alan Willey had scored on a blast from the left boards. Hector Marinaro scored his league-leading 34th goal for the Lazers, but it was still 4-1.
The way Nogueira has been playing lately, that would have been plenty. "It's like he has a force field around him," Lazers' Coach Keith Tozier said.
But, in the second half, goals kept coming. Wright scored to make it 5-1 after Kevin Crow juked Doug Neely to his knees and fed him a perfect pass down the right side. Then Steve Zungul scored from in front, Crow scored on a breakaway and Chris Chueden scored off a centering pass from Willey.
The offensive feast was just another in a long line of recent successes. The Sockers (18-14) routed Tacoma, 9-4, last Sunday and beat Dallas, 8-2, Friday night. In between, the Sockers suffered their only loss of this recent hot spell, 10-9, in double overtime to the Lazers.
"Right now, everybody on our team is formed to the way we like to play," Segota said.
Coach Ron Newman and Lazer defender Fernando Clavijo met for breakfast Saturday morning, and Newman said the two have apparently put Thursday night's incident behind them. Clavijo, a former Socker, claimed that Newman spit on him as the two argued after the Lazers' 10-9 victory in Los Angeles. Newman said Clavijo punched him. Though the league is still looking into the matter, Newman said the two have buried the hatchet. The Lazers aren't allowing Clavijo to talk about the incident until it's resolved, but Clavijo did say that he and Newman met on amiable terms Saturday.