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Sockers Beaten by Storm

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The difference between shouts and whispers was Claudio De Oliveira.

The Brazilian midfielder darted to steal the ball from Socker defender Ralph Black, scooted up the carpet and around defender Kevin Crow and sent a shot singing into the right corner 8:05 into overtime Monday night to give St. Louis a 4-3 victory over the Sockers..

With the victory, St. Louis evened the best-of-five semifinal series, 1-1, snapped a 10-game winning streak for the Sockers in the San Diego Sports Arena and forced them to win one on the road. The series resumes tonight at 5:35 at St. Louis Arena.

After the loss, in front of 5,875 spectators, came the quiet analysis. Black sat with his head in his hands and found it difficult to form words.

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“The ball just came off the boards harder than I thought,” he said. “He took it off me. I just screwed up. I don’t want to say any more.”

After leaving Black behind, De Oliveira froze Crow in the middle of the penalty box and goalie Victor Nogueira in goal. He celebrated his accomplishment with a little dance.

“That’s typical in Brazil,” said De Oliveira, a first year player who led St. Louis with 27 goals in the regular season. “Sometimes I pressure and the coach doesn’t like it. Black got the ball and I said that’s the time.”

The coach, Don Popovic, didn’t mind him pressuring this time one bit.

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“He is a franchise player,” Popovic said. “He can do anything. He can pass and he can score. He doesn’t understand indoor so well but he adjusted.”

Socker Coach Ron Newman thinks his team can do some adjusting of its own on the road, where the Sockers to date have won just six of 26 games.

“I’m not worried about playing in St. Louis at all,” he said. “We’ve got no excuses. We’ve just got to suck it up and go after them.”

The Sockers almost pulled this one off after falling behind 3-1. Forward Rod Castro made good on his first shift, taking a restart kick from midfielder Branko Segota, turning to his left and sending it by goalie Slobo Ilijevski to tie it 3-3 early in the fourth quarter. Castro, a rookie, has picked his spots this season, starting hot, disappearing midway through and finishing hot. Monday’s goal was his first MISL playoff point.

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Storm midfielder Michael Collins put the Storm ahead 2-1 early in the third quarter, sneaking behind the defense and waiting while forward Godfrey Ingram drew watchful eyes from the Sockers. Instead of shooting, Ingram sent a nice soft pass to Collins, who tapped it in quicker than the Sockers could turn their heads.

Later in the quarter, the Sockers sat while the Storm shot. Midfielder Branko Segota was assessed a two-minute penalty for pushing forward Marcio Leite. Twenty-seven seconds later, the whistle blew again, this time directed at midfielder Brian Quinn for an intentional hand ball. That gave the Storm a two-man advantage and they capitalized, forward Thompson Usiyan taking a pass from Godfrey Ingram and crossing it into the left corner to make it 3-1.

It was a game of highs and lows for the Sockers, who were looser and more cohesive in the first quarter than they were Saturday but appeared to have momentary lapses of intensity until Castro’s goal gave them a lift in the fourth quarter.

It was scoreless until forward Godfrey Ingram faked and went to the right of a frozen Quinn and sent a swift carpet-hugger into the left corner 3:54 into the second quarter.

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Later in the quarter, Quinn served up a taste of his poetic skills following the rebound of his own shot and hitting a ball that was two feet off the ground into the left corner. Segota created the chance, sliding on his back to send the ball in Quinn’s direction between two defenders.

What happens now? Well, it’s time for this team to prove itself. The speculation and the regular season are history. The road to St. Louis lies ahead.

“We’ve just got to work harder,” defender George Fernandez said. “We gave the ball up too many times. That’s lack of concentration. Just a step slow.”

Why?

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“I have no answer. This is the playoffs. We should be flying all over the place.”

Instead, they are flying to St. Louis in search of that answer.

Socker Notes

Midfielder Brian Quinn had two assists in Saturday’s 3-2 victory over St. Louis in Game 1 to move ahead of Jean Willrich into third place on the team’s all-time playoff scoring list with 92 points. . . . Forward Jim Gabarra, who finished the regular season with 10 goals, scored the first game-winning playoff goal of his MISL career Saturday. . . . St. Louis forward Stan Terlecki, who had 35 points in the regular season, has missed both playoff games with bursitis in his right knee. . . . Peter Hattrup, a forward from the American Indoor Soccer Assn. signed by the Sockers last Friday, has not suited up for either playoff game. . . . Tonight’s game will be telecast live from St. Louis starting at 5:30.

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