Hirmez Plays Tough Offense and Defense; Sockers Beat Dallas
Everyone will remember Waad Hirmez’s goal on Sunday night.
Everyone will probably remember that he scored it with his bum leg.
What few will remember is that Hirmez was on the other end of the carpet a little more than two minutes later, preventing the Dallas Sidekicks from re-tying the game.
The Sockers wound up defeating the Sidekicks, 4-2, before 6,422 in the San Diego Sports Arena, tying the best-of-seven Western Division finals at two games apiece.
Dallas climbed back from a 2-0 deficit to tie the game early in the third quarter following goals by forwards Tatu and Eloy Salgado. Four minutes and 44 seconds into the fourth quarter, Hirmez slipped by two Sidekick defenders to take a soft pass from Cacho and send a 25-footer into the left corner. Premature as it was, a celebration ensued.
But Dallas was far from dead. And that’s where Hirmez played a role that is generally uncharacteristic of him. Suddenly, he was a goalie.
What happened, there was a tussle in front of the Sockers’ goal and goalie Zoltan Toth partially deflected a shot that began to roll toward the goal line. Everybody watched for a split second. Hirmez made a couple of quick steps, caught the ball about 16 inches before it reached the line and sent it up field to kill the threat.
It was a tiny piece of a huge victory, one that kept the Sockers from being a game from elimination. And realistically, one that kept the Sockers in this series. Winning three in a row with the final two games in Dallas would have been highly unlikely.
Hirmez dismissed his defensive play fairly simply, saying: “You gotta play on both ends of the field.”
But Hirmez is a player who has often been criticized for paying too much attention to offense and not enough to defense. He is known for scoring goals, not preventing them.
He wasn’t even sure he would be able to play in this game after he strained his hamstring during the Sockers’ 4-1 loss in Game 3 Friday. After taking a few shots before the game, he decided to give it a whirl. The result was satisfactory.
“It was a great shot,” midfielder Brian Quinn said. “He hit it real quick.”
Socker Coach Ron Newman figured Hirmez owed him a goal. It was Hirmez who allowed Tatu to cut into the box and score the Sidekicks’ first goal 1:17 before halftime. At that point, momentum the Sockers had gained from previous goals by forward Jim Gabarra and defender George Fernandez was erased.
“He felt terrible about it,” Newman said, “so I knew he wanted to make up for it.”
Gabarra made his shot from 25 feet off Paul Wright’s pass, drilling it into the upper left corner late in the first quarter. Fernandez scored on a Sidekick power play, taking a pass from Wright, who advanced the ball through a host of Dallas defenders and tapped his pass into the box. It glanced off Beto’s foot and Fernandez turned and sent it into the right corner.
Funny how the Sockers do things. They blew two power play opportunities of their own, breaking a team record for 14 in a row without a goal and then scored when the Sidekicks had a man advantage.
Dallas went to a sixth attacker with 2:16 remaining and had several opportunities that were ultimately foiled by Toth. Forward Wes Wade took a long pass from Fernandez and scored an empty-net goal with 20 seconds to play to seal the victory.
More than anything, this victory proved that the Sockers have a struggle ahead of them if they are to advance to the championship series. The Sidekicks came within a crossbar here and a goal post there of winning, despite the fact that the Sockers outplayed them through much of the game.
“I thought we did so well, especially in the first half,” Newman said. “And then you look up at the scoreboard and it’s 2-2 or 2-1. It just isn’t right. I thought ‘How can it be?’ ”
One explanation is that Dallas had more opportunities. The Sidekicks out shot the Sockers 31-23 and Toth (4-1) made 16 saves to just seven by Sidekick goalie Krys Sobieski.
That the Sockers held steady after the Sidekicks’ comeback was an indication that they have matured since the regular season. This is a team that has blown its share of leads and often gone on to lose.
“We deserved to win (Sunday),” Quinn said. “We didn’t lose any intensity when they got to 2-2. We kept playing. Sometimes we back off.”
Still, the Sockers remain as hard to figure out as ever. Nobody has any idea what lies ahead.
“You don’t know,” Quinn said. “In the past every time this team has been asked to come back we’ve done it. I just think this team has been more unpredictable than in past years.”