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Sockers Douse Comets to Win Fourth in a Row

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The Sockers are ahead of schedule.

Notorious for their slow starts, the Sockers not only held off the Kansas City Comets, 6-5, on Saturday night, but they won their fourth straight game and moved to the .500 mark for the first time all season.

“Every year, we start off five games under 500, and we get to 500,” goalkeeper Victor Nogueira said. “Last year, it took us until the playoffs to get to .500. This year, we did it pretty fast.”

The victory lifted the defending MSL champions to 9-9 and moved them into third place in the Western Division, a half-game ahead of Dallas (8-9).

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‘We’re celebrating as if we had won a championship because we got to .500,” said Socker Coach Ron Newman, whose team matched its longest winning streak of a year ago. “We took some tough losses in overtimes early in the season, and we’ve had to regroup and battle back. It’s just beginning to come back for us.”

The victory came easier than the score indicated. Catching a porous Kansas City defense napping, Paul Wright, Jim Gabarra and Paul Dougherty scored fourth-quarter goals in a span of 3 minutes 57 seconds, turning a 3-3 tie into a 6-3 lead with 6:12 left to play.

Kansas City (10-7) then lifted goalkeeper Mike Dowler for a sixth attacker, and Jan Goossens and Paul Peschisolido each scored their second goals of the game, drawing the Comets to within a goal.

But the Comets, who overcame a five-goal deficit on Friday night only to lose 7-6 in overtime to Baltimore, saw their last hope squelched when Nogueira made a sliding save on Peschisolido with 1:00 left.

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“They couldn’t come back that many goals, are you kidding? They did it last night, no way they’d do it two nights in a row,” Nogueira said of Kansas City, which lost its third in a row--all at Kemper Arena, where they lost three games all of last season.

“They caught us in a really hot streak right now, and they’re a little bit down, but they were doing that to teams earlier in the season.”

Indeed, the Comets, who got off to a 9-1 start, have lost six of their last seven, and they have allowed 55 goals in those seven games.

Six players scored for the Sockers. Waad Hirmez and Brian Quinn had goals in the first half, which ended 2-2, and Branko Segota gave them a 3-2 lead 1:18 into the third quarter with a second-effort goal.

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After taking a centering pass from Quinn, Segota’s initial shot was saved by Dowler, but Segota headed in the rebound for his second goal of the season.

Segota, who was playing in his third game since missing 13 games because of a cracked fibula, had scored his first of the season Friday night at St. Louis.

Goossens tied the score at 4:18 as he rebounded a shot by Ted Eck that had been swatted away by Nogueira.

The tie was short-lived. Thirty-three seconds later, the Sockers beat the Comets’ defense downfield. Quinn sent a ball to Alex Golovnia, and he fed Wright, who had a tap-in for his 13th goal of the season.

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Gabarra, on a feed from Ben Collins, and Dougherty, pouncing on a ball Dowler fumbled coming off the boards, scored 15 seconds apart for the 6-3 lead.

“The ball fell perfectly for me,” Dougherty said of his team-leading 18th goal.

The victory also improved the Sockers’ road record to .500 on the road--5-5--compared to last season’s 6-20 performance. And the Sockers snapped a four-game losing streak in Kansas CIty, where they had not won since April 15, 1989.

“Instead of hoping to win games, we’re expecting to win them,” Quinn said. “We’ve set ourselves for the rest of the season. Subconsciously, we’re thinking it would be nice to win the division. Yeah, we’ve won championships, but we haven’t won a division for a while, so we’d like to take first things first.”

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Socker Notes

The Sockers, who are in the midst of five consecutive road games, will play at Cleveland next Friday and at Baltimore on Jan. 22. The Sockers’ next home game is Jan. 4 against Tacoma. . . . Sockers owner Ron Fowler and president Ron Cady made the trip to St. Louis and Kansas City. . . . The Comets and Sockers will meet again Jan. 6 in San Diego.

* DEAL IN THE WORKS?: The Sockers and Cleveland are discussing a possible trade that would send midfielder Mike Sweeney to San Diego.


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