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Tatu Breaks Silence--and Sockers

TIMES STAFF WRITER

For 208 minutes and 54 seconds, the Sockers had been holding their breaths. It had been that long since Tatu had scored a goal against them.

Tatu is the leading scorer in the MISL. The Sockers knew it was only a matter of time.

The time came Friday night. There was 6:49 remaining in the third quarter, and Socker forward Wes Wade had the ball. His pass was intercepted by midfielder Mark Karpun, who advanced the ball and shot. Goalie Victor Nogueira deflected it to his right, and Tatu stood waiting. Bang.

He scored again 57 seconds later to push his team toward a 4-1 victory before 9,003 in the San Diego Sports Arena. The Sidekicks now have a 2-1 advantage in the best-of-seven Western Division finals.

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Subsequent goals by midfielder Kevin Smith and defender Troy Snyder helped finish off the Sockers, who have only lost three games in San Diego to the Sidekicks in 21-game series history.

So Tatu was a happy camper. This melted away a lot of frustration.

“When you create opportunities, and you try to score, and you don’t, you say ‘What’s happened to me? What’s gone wrong?’ ” he said. “I was getting my shots. The four or five games they shot me down I averaged eight or 10 shots.”

But someone was always in the way. Not this time. Defender Cacho let Tatu shoot past him down the left sideline on his second goal, and he scored the first after Wade’s errant pass. Still, the difference this time was that he finished the job.

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“He broke out of his shell tonight,” Socker defender Ralph Black said. “You can’t keep him down for too long.”

And the Sockers continue to wait for midfielder Branko Segota. He was pointless again Friday and now has just one assist in this series.

Socker Coach Ron Newman has taken note.

“I kept saying to Branko, ‘Come on, you’re very quiet,’ ” Newman said. “He didn’t seem to be able to raise his game. Maybe I ought to play more aggressive players.”

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Defensively, the Sockers were aggressive up until the third quarter. In fact, both teams were. Neither managed to score in the first half, thanks mostly to outstanding goalkeeping by Joe Papaleo of the Sidekicks and Nogueira.

Tatu unleashed two line drives midway through the first quarter that Nogueira tipped away with a dive to the right and a dive to the left.

Papaleo took his best dive a few minutes later, foiling a shot from just outside the goal mouth by forward Rod Castro, who redirected a pass from forward Paul Wright with his heel.

Both teams failed on first-quarter power plays. The Sidekicks tried first following an intentional hand-ball penalty on defender Ralph Black. The Sockers got their opportunity when Doc Lawson was whistled for tripping Cacho.

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Adding to the Sockers problems was an injury to midfielder Waad Hirmez, who left in the second quarter with a hamstring strain and did not return for the second half. He will be evaluated today and is questionable for the remainder of the series.

The Sockers opened the scoring in the third quarter when midfielder Brian Quinn took a short pass from midfielder Jacques Ladouceur on the dead run and sent it into the right corner. Soon after, Tatu broke his dubious string and then added an exclamation point.

The Sockers are now in a difficult position. The teams meet Sunday and Tuesday in San Diego before going back to Dallas. If the Sockers don’t take both home games, they will need to sweep in Dallas.

What concerns Newman most is his team’s intensity level, or lack thereof.

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“Disappointed,” he said. “There wasn’t that spark there tonight.”

Socker Notes

Kansas City defeated Baltimore, 3-2, in Game 3 of the Eastern Division finals at Kansas City. Dale Mitchell scored the game-winner 29 seconds into overtime. Baltimore leads the series three games to one . . . About 30 minutes before the game, somebody discovered that the playing carpet had been placed down incorrectly at the west end of the arena. This caused the red line to be situated too close to the goal. Twenty volunteers were rounded up, and the carpet was pulled, reversed and placed down correctly. . . . Sidekicks defender Richard Chinapoo (left calf) and forward Steve Kinsey (left hamstring) did not make the trip. Chinapoo, who finished third on the team in scoring during the regular season with 33 points, has not played in the playoffs. Kinsey was injured in Game 2.


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