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Ex-Socker Deyna Killed in Car Crash

Kaz Deyna, who played on five Socker championship teams from 1981-87, died early Friday morning when his car veered onto the shoulder of Interstate 15 and struck a parked truck.

According to the California Highway Patrol report, Deyna, 41, sustained massive head injuries and was pronounced dead at the scene a 1:25 a.m. The report said he was driving alone in his 1974 Dodge Colt north of Mira Mesa Boulevard and that the truck’s hazard lights were blinking at the time of the collision; there was no estimated speed.

A spokesman at the coroner’s office said a toxicology report won’t be released until next week.

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Deyna, a native of Poland, was considered one of the world’s top outdoor players during the peak of his career in the early 1970s. He was named Poland’s player of the year three times and finished third in the most valuable player voting for the ’74 World Cup. He was a member of the Polish team that won a gold medal at the 1972 Olympics.

Deyna, a midfielder who signed with the Sockers in 1981 and retired in 1987, is fifth on the club’s all-time regular-season points list with 232. His biggest moment came with the outdoor team in 1983, when he scored four goals and five assists in a 9-1 victory over Tampa Bay.

He was remembered by teammates as a quiet person who led by demonstration rather than description.

“It was a pleasure to play with him,” defender Kevin Crow said. “He helped me a lot, in a quiet way. He loved the sport.”

The mood at the Sockers’ office Friday was solemn. A few players stopped in to talk. Others called to find out details of the accident.

“I was stunned beyond belief at the news,” said Socker Coach Ron Newman, who is vacationing in England. “I feel absolutely honored to have had him on any of my teams. Kazzie set a standard with our club which we still use and compare against today.”

Crow said: “You really don’t know what to say. When it happens so close to you, it kind of shakes you up a little. It makes you realize it can happen to anyone.”

While Deyna was recognized for his contributions to the Sockers’ indoor dominance, few local fans were aware of his stature as an outdoor player. Juli Veee, the Sockers’ all-time leading scorer, said Deyna was legendary.

“You have to understand, he’s like Joe DiMaggio or Babe Ruth,” Veee said. “He was magnificent. Soccer was his whole life.”

Deyna will be remembered as a finesse player whose skills often amazed fans and baffled opponents. Even in his final season--when, Veee said, the Sockers took away Deyna’s dignity by sitting him on the bench--he showed flashes of his former skills.

His final goal came against Tacoma in Game Five of the Western Division Finals in 1987. Branko Segota passed to Deyna, positioned at the top of the penalty arch. Back to the goal, Deyna turned and connected while the ball was still in the air, sending it past goalie Mike Dowler.

“The last goal was a perfect example of his skill,” said Jim Moorhouse, Socker media services assistant. “He had the best touch of any soccer player I’ve ever seen.”

Newman said: “Finesse made Kazzie head and shoulders above other players. Kazzie still had a lot in him to give to the youth of America, but now we can only remember him on film.”

Since his retirement, Deyna has coached youth soccer and played in several international exhibition games.

Deyna appeared as an extra in the film “Victory”, a movie about soccer starring Sylvester Stallone.

He is survived by his wife, Mariola, and a son, Norbert.


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