Nights off have come with regularity thanks to this season’s stretched-out Major Indoor Soccer League schedule, but rarely have they occurred on nights when games are played.
The Sockers, in need of some relief after an exhausting loss to first-place Baltimore Friday night, got the soothing tonic they needed Saturday from the last-place Wichita Wings at the Sports Arena.
Tired legs seemed revived and worn-down emotions seemed refreshed after a 10-6 victory over the Wings, who not only provided little resistence but also threw in a free goal or two as part of the deal.
Branko Segota scored four goals, but it was Zoran Karic who received the evening’s biggest gift in front of 8,740 fans when Wichita goalkeeper Cris Vaccaro assisted on his second-quarter goal.
Vaccaro, standing to the left of the penalty box, tried to clear a ball but instead passed to Karic at the Wichita red line. Presented with an empty net, Karic scored easily to give the Sockers a 5-2 lead.
There was little worry after that for the Sockers, who snapped a three-game losing streak and moved back into a second-place tie with the Dallas Sidekicks at 19-17.
“Lately, we’ve been getting chances but not putting them away,” Segota said. “But this time, we finished off our chances and got ahead early.”
That was important, because the Sockers were a step slow, especially in the second quarter when they were whistled for a season-high 12 fouls. To show how little it mattered, however, it was the Sockers who scored three goals during that period to take control.
Segota, who had scored off a pass from Karic in the first quarter, notched his second goal of the night midway through the second quarter when he stepped around Victor Moreland and beat Vaccaro with a line-drive shot on the short side.
An unmarked Paul Dougherty scored on a shot that was deflected by the Wichita defense to make it 4-2, and then Vaccaro made his ill-fated clearing pass to Karic just before halftime.
Chico Borja scored for Wichita (15-21) to start the third quarter, but Segota scored twice more, once on a penalty kick and once on a free kick, to push the Sockers’ advantage to 7-3.
Segota, who it seems has needed some off-nights this season while trying to carry the bulk of the Sockers’ offensive load, wasn’t in a restful mood against the Wings. Along with his four goals, which gave him a team-high 27 for the season, he added three assists.
Segota now has 42 career hat tricks, and his seven-point game was the first by a Socker since Segota himself scored seven (six were goals) in a victory over Cleveland in December of 1987.
Steve Zungul added three goals for his 99th career hat trick, and Karic had two to raise his goal total to 26 as the Sockers reached double-figures for the first time this season and reached 2,000 regular-season goals in their history.
“This game was a lot of fun,” Sockers’ Coach Ron Newman said. “When you have a lead, you can play more comfortably.”
Segota scored 9:54 into the game to put the Sockers ahead, 1-0, but Wichita tied the game less than a minute later when Erik Rasmussen scored on a penalty kick. Vaccaro sent Terry Rowe in alone with a length-of-the-field pass, and Waad Hirmez fouled Rowe from behind to set up Rasmussen’s attempt.
Rasmussen, the league’s Most Valuable Player a year ago, mis-hit his penalty kick, but the slow-paced shot fooled Victor Nogueira and beat him low on the left side.