Sockers Powerless but Happy : MISL Playoffs: They are 0 for 16 with a man advantage so far in the playoffs but otherwise satisfied with the numbers: a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven MISL Western Division finals heading into tonight's game in Dallas.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

So what about this Socker power play?

A smile appears on the face of defender Ralph Black.

"In our league," he said, "I wish we had the decline rule so we could decline our power play."

It is about the only thing that has gone wrong this week. No, wait a minute. Defender George Fernandez had to skip a golf tournament Monday because Coach Ron Newman called an unexpected practice.

Otherwise, with the exception of a few injuries, everything is just fine. The Sockers lead the Dallas Sidekicks, 3-2, in the best-of-seven Western Division finals, having won two consecutive games. Game 6 is tonight in Reunion Arena at 5:35. If necessary, Game 7 will be here on Saturday. The winner of this series will play for the MISL championship against Baltimore, which eliminated Kansas City Tuesday night in the Eastern Division finals.

In the past two games, the Sockers have held the Sidekicks to two goals and scored eight. Momentum and confidence are on their side.

But what remains a mystery is why they can't score a power-play goal. They've had 16 opportunities in these playoffs. Sixteen times, they've failed. With the exception of Charlie Brown's pitching record, it's hard to find a sorrier statistic.

"I can't do much about it," Newman said. "We've put the best players out there."

He isn't overly concerned.

"I don't think we are on our own," he said. "I think everybody has had trouble scoring on the power play."

Goalkeeping could explain that. Any rust Socker Victor Nogueira carried with him going into the playoffs has disappeared; his 1.72 goals-against average is proof. Nogueira had started just two of nine games entering the Dallas series but has started three of the past five.

The Sockers' other goalie, Zoltan Toth, was at the top of his game in the St. Louis series but hasn't been as sharp against Dallas. That isn't to say he has been shabby. He made 16 saves in helping the Sockers to a victory in Game 4 Sunday.

"We've got good competition with these two goalkeepers," Newman said. "I think it keeps them on their toes."

In the absence of midfielder Branko Segota, who missed Tuesday's game with a left hip contusion and has just one point in this series, midfielder Brian Quinn has picked up his game and collected the statistics of at least two players. Along with five goals, Quinn has 11 assists in the playoffs. Segota is second on the team in assists with three.

If the Sockers are to win this series, they will undoubtedly have to cope with a few elbows and kicks to the shin. Dallas' most convincing performance was a 6-1 victory in Game 2, in which 57 fouls were called, a series high. The Sidekicks like to play rough.

After that game, Sidekick forward Willie Molano was talking about his team's chances of eliminating the Sockers. He didn't sound too convincing.

Yes, it was the Sidekicks who won the Western Division during the regular season, finishing six games ahead of the Sockers. But when you think about it, when have the seven-time champion Sockers ever played better during the regular season than they have in the playoffs?

"Everybody here respects them very much," Molano said. "If we give them a chance, they're going to put us away."

Tonight they have that chance.

Socker Notes

Midfielder Branko Segota said he will decide after warmups whether he will play tonight. Segota missed Tuesday's game with bursitis of the left hip, which developed when he was bumped to the carpet by Sidekick defender Mike Powers in Sunday's game. Other injured players include defender Cacho (lower back strain), defender Ralph Black (shoulder strain) and midfielder Jacques Ladouceur (swollen ankle). All three are expected to play. . . . With 60 assists, midfielder Brian Quinn is two away from tying Juli Veee as the team's all-time playoff leader. . . . The Sockers take a 70-29 playoff record into tonight's game.

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