Fourth quarter. The Sockers, who eventually defeated the Dallas Sidekicks, 4-3, were resting comfortably Sunday on a 2-1 cushion created by Branko Segota’s second-quarter goal.
The game had become a tad sleepy. Both teams appeared to be relying on defense.
Suddenly, there was a wake-up call. Sidekick midfielder Michael King popped a shot from the left of the Socker goal that goalie Victor Nogueira got a piece of but couldn’t prevent from going in. Tie score.
An instant surge of Socker energy found its result 28 seconds later when Waad Hirmez scored. Less than three minutes later, Hirmez scored again. The Sports Arena crowd of 6,830 was alive again.
“I was a bit surprised when they got 2-2,” Socker Coach Ron Newman said. “We needed a third goal much earlier. We can play better than that.”
That was the consensus in the Sockers’ locker room. Three victories in a row hasn’t come close to swelling their heads.
“I’m not satisfied,” defender Kevin Crow said. “I think we should be playing at a higher level.”
Sunday’s victory was just high enough to leave the Sockers (21-17) in second place, 3 1/2 games behind Major Indoor Soccer League-leading Baltimore.
Dallas (18-19) slipped into a third-place tie with Los Angeles, six games out of first.
The Sockers took an early lead with 9:22 remaining in the first quarter when Segota’s shot deflected off the crossbar and forward Steve Zungul followed with a right-footed volley at the top of the penalty arch.
After Sidekick forward Mark Karpun tied the score early in the second quarter, Segota put the Sockers on top with a shot that found its way through the legs of Sidekick defender Wes McLeod and into the right corner of the goal.
The third quarter then crawled by without a goal from either team.
“Sometimes when you’re winning by one goal, you’re more tentative than you are when it’s tied,” Newman said.
If the Sockers learned from this game to be a bit more reckless with a one-goal lead, the Sidekicks learned it’s worth keeping an eye and maybe a defender on Hirmez. The Socker midfielder was wide open on both of his goals, while Dallas stuck closely to Segota and Socker forward Zoran Karic.
On Hirmez’s first goal, Segota passed a restart kick to his right and Hirmez drilled it in with his left foot.
“I was all by myself,” Hirmez said. “I couldn’t believe it.”
Dallas apparently didn’t believe Hirmez could do it again. A few minutes later, there was Segota setting up for another kick. And there was Hirmez positioning himself again to his right. Segota passed. Hirmez stepped up and shot. Sockers led, 4-2.
“Maybe they underestimated me,” Hirmez said. “I was just on my own. They were worrying more about Zoran and Branko.”
For the Sockers, it’s a good thing they did. A funny thing happened on their way to the victory. Hirmez got his head on the ball in front of the Sockers’ goal, intending it for Nogueira. But the ball hit the crossbar, bounced off Nogueira’s fingertips and into the goal for the Sidekicks’ final goal with 6:32 remaining.
Dallas forward Beto, who was standing between the two Sockers and was somewhere in the vicinity of the ball, was credited with an unassisted goal.
A typical example, Crow said, of an indoor soccer goal.
“You’re going to get your share of goals like that in a season,” he said.
The Sockers are down to their last 10 games of the season, concluding this five-game home stand with Wichita Wednesday night. Six of their final nine games are on the road, an important test, Segota said, heading toward the playoffs.
“We’re just going to play 100%,” he said. “If we can steal a couple of games on the road, it will help us tremendously.”
The status of Socker midfielder Brian Quinn, sidelined with a strained arch, is still uncertain, though he is listed as probable for Wednesday’s game. . . . Steve Zungul’s goal in the first period tied him with Kaz Deyna for fourth on the Sockers’ all-time points list with 232.