Once in a great while, the Sockers do something that resembles their past.
Sunday, before 7,487 at the San Diego Sports Arena, it happened. And it was nice timing considering the opponent was Dallas (17-12), the first place team in the Western Division of the Major Indoor Soccer League.
Now, brace yourself . . .
Final score: Sockers 6, Sidekicks 2.
This, in the middle of a bumpy season, was welcome, if not fully expected. The Sidekicks had defeated the Sockers in three of four previous meetings, and Branko Segota led the Sockers in their lone victory with a hat trick. Segota missed Sunday's game with a calf strain.
So it was up to the rest of this bunch, whose egos have been as bruised as their legs in recent weeks. There was a victory formula to uncover. Socker Coach Ron Newman had to call on forward Zoran Karic, midfielder Brian Quinn, and defender Ralph Black, all of whom he said he would have liked to rest because of injuries.
Quinn's presence always serves to steady the Sockers' offense. Black assisted on two goals and got in his usual share of blocks in the back. Karic, though goal-less, drew attention from the Sidekick defenders, allowing a new cast of characters to get their kicks at the net.
Defender Cacho opened the scoring with a touch off Black's pass in the first quarter. This was the first time the Sockers have scored first in five games.
Cacho made it 2-0 early in the second quarter, hitting a left-footed volley from 30-feet on a cornerkick by Quinn.
"He just caught it perfectly," Quinn said. "It was just a sweet goal."
Quinn may be the Irishman on this team, but Cacho, a native of Argentina, is apparently a lucky charm. The Sockers have won all six games in which he has scored. And with this victory comes a little of the old Socker optimism.
"In the last part of the season we're going to be great," Cacho said. "I believe we're going to be the champions again."
Still, it was just after Cacho's second goal that Newman was wondering if the Sockers (12-15) were going to steamroll ahead, or pull their more typical hide-and-don't-go-seek-the-offense act. To his relief, it was the former.
Quinn scored midway through the second quarter on an assist by Cacho. Rookie forward Wes Wade made it 4-0 before halftime on a little tap just to the right of the goal mouth.
Midfielders Waad Hirmez and forwards Rod Castro added power-play goals in the third quarter to make it 6-0. In desperation, the Sidekicks opened the fourth quarter with a sixth attacker, and managed goals from forward Steve Kinsey and midfielder Mark Karpun.
Goalie Victor Nogueira evened his record at 7-7, making 14 saves on 26 shots.
As usual after a victory, the Sockers' locker room was a carnival. There were almost as many laughs as bags of ice.
"We've got more press in here tonight, and more people," Black said. "We must have won."
Strange atmosphere. After all, the Sockers had lost five of six entering Sunday's game. There hasn't been a lot to smile about.
The thing is, the style of play against Dallas wasn't much different than it was Friday against Tacoma, which won 3-2 in overtime. The Sockers used the counterattack. They played aggressive defense. They took 22 shots, same number as Friday.
Yet Sunday, the shots went in.
"They went in," Newman said. "I was saying to Cacho if we'd just had one of those against Tacoma we'd have won. Can't be too greedy, I suppose."
Actually, he can't afford to be anything less than greedy. The Sockers are still 3 1/2 games behind Dallas and searching for their first string of three victories in a row since Nov. 18. "We don't want to go overboard," Quinn said. "We won one game. We just have to use it as a springboard for the rest of the season."
Ahead is a home game against Baltimore on Wednesday and then a four-game trip through Kansas City, Cleveland, Baltimore and Tacoma. The road has been a Waterloo, the Sockers winning just three of 10.
Small as it may be, Sunday's victory was perhaps an indicator that this team is not as punchless as it has appeared.
"It just proves that we can still play with other teams," defender Kevin Crow said. "But we've got to prove that we can do it consistently.
"If we can keep that level and add a little bit more finesse we'll be dangerous."