One week to go. One spot to fill.
The Sockers open their regular season on the road at Dallas Saturday night but still haven't signed their 18th and final roster player, which makes you wonder what Socker President Ron Cady and Coach Ron Newman have on the burner. Neither will say.
"There are always viable options," Cady said. "We don't rule out any possibilities. That's really all I can say."
Said Newman: "There are some possibilities for something to happen."
Possibilities, possibilities. But what are the probabilities?
Well, originally it was expected that midfielder Jacques Ladouceur would make his return to the Sockers after a year in the private sector. And he has had a solid training camp, though he has missed two of three exhibition games for business reasons.
"He has been absolutely superb," veteran Brian Quinn said. "Jacques is versatile. He's got a lot of energy, like Paul Dougherty. He kind of ignites the team. I think he would be a plus for us."
But since the Sockers are waiting until the final days of the preseason to sign their last player, it is likely they have an eye or two on the waiver wire. Surprisingly, there are whispers that Newman is interested in Kris Peat, a second-year goalie from North Carolina State who was released Thursday by the Cleveland Crunch.
If that's the case, it's hard to figure. The Sockers appear well supplied at goalie with veterans Victor Nogueira and Zoltan Toth. Nogueira was the Major Indoor Soccer League's goalie of the year last season, Toth in 1988. Without Ladouceur, the Sockers would be painfully thin at the midfield position if Quinn or Branko Segota were to miss games with injuries again this season.
It's possible that Newman is interested in youth; Toth will be 34 in December and Nogueira is 30. Since only 15 players are allowed to suit up for each game, the Sockers could carry Peat without playing him; the purpose would be to have him learn techniques from Toth and Nogueira. Peat also is rumored to be negotiating with the Atlanta Attack of the American Indoor Soccer Assn.
There are also trade possibilities. It's no secret that Newman has often been frustrated with forward Zoran Karic, who has never been the quintessential team player. However, Karic led the Sockers in scoring last season and might be valuable trade bait. Asked to comment on that subject, Newman would say only: "I don't think that would be fair to Zoran."
Michael Collins, who recently signed with St Louis, would fit in nicely with the Sockers' system and would take pressure off Quinn by shoring up the midfield position. "We'd be interested in him" Newman said, "but I don't think we'd have a chance to get him."
Other options could be created if the U.S. National team failed to qualify for the World Cup. The Sockers have already agreed to terms with Jim Gabarra, a forward on the national team, and will work him in when he's available. As was the case last year when he played for the Los Angeles Lazers, the National Team will be Gabarra's first priority. He played 30 of 47 games last season. Bo Jackson's hobby is the NFL, Gabarra's is the MISL.
Newman also has long been interested in John Stollmeyer, a rugged National Team defender whose style is similar to that of returning starter Ralph Black.
If the Sockers don't make any unexpected roster moves, Newman is still watching over a more stable organization than he was last year, when he admittedly was nervous about the team he had patched together in the anxious weeks after the MISL almost locked its doors for good.
"I'm very pleased at the way it stands," he said. "I think we look strong."
Waad Hirmez, Socker midfielder, used to wear No. 11. He left at the beginning of last season to play for the Lazers, and Ralph Black, acquired from Tacoma, took No. 11. Hirmez came back midway through last season and was given No. 28.
Hirmez would have liked to get No. 11 back this season. Black said something like: "No problem. You can have it for $1,500."
Then, Black raised the price to $2,000.
Hirmez decided against it. "Waddy didn't think it was worth quite that much," Newman said.
A few days ago in practice, Branko Segota got a rise out of Hirmez and a laugh from everybody else when he said he'd like to wear No. 11 himself. Not missing a beat, Black said: "You got it."
Word is, Hirmez went a little crazy. In a sporting sort of way.
Black will wear No. 11, Hirmez will wear No. 28 and Segota, as usual, will wear No. 20.
Quinn didn't make this weekend's trip to Tacoma because of a sore arch in his foot, a problem he suffered with through much of last season. He said he will be ready for the opener in Dallas "without a doubt."
Karic also missed the trip because he bruised his knee in practice last week. He is expected to be back this week.