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Ervine’s Scoring Vision Provides Grand Results for the Splash

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

Dale Ervine is a man of vision, which is to say he knows what he has seen and doesn’t want to suffer the same fate.

He has seen the talented come and go long before their time.

He has seen the marginal enjoy success and win championships.

He is old in the indoor soccer game and wise from the years.

Ervine, aptly named to become an Orange County star, has already shown Splash fans the fruits of his dedication.

He has been everything management could want--a scorer, a leader, a coach.

Through four games, he has nine goals and six assists, figures he hopes to add to Wednesday when the Splash (4-0) play host to the Detroit Neon (0-3) at The Pond of Anaheim. He is second in the league in total points (15) and goals.

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Hat tricks in the Splash’s first two games garnered him player of the week honors in the Continental Indoor Soccer League, and he also had the game-winning shootout goal in a 10-9 victory over Detroit Saturday.

“He brings a lot of stability to this team,” said Doug Neely, who played against Ervine the past seven years, but now only faces him in practice. “He knows when to pump everyone up and when to calm people down. Everyone looks to Dale to get a feel for things. We feed off his experience.”

Ervine, 30, spent his first eight seasons with the Wichita Wings--six years in the Major Soccer League and the past two in the National Professional Soccer League that plays during the winter. He has scored 467 points in 338 games over that span, including 305 goals. In 1990-91, he scored 62 times in 52 games. Over the past winter, he scored 62 goals in 38 games, and he also played last year outdoors with the Salsa.

“There’s no doubt he’s one of the greatest forwards to ever play this (indoors) game,” said Splash Coach George Fernandez, who isn’t allowed an official assistant coach by league rules, but admits Ervine serves as one.

Ervine himself is optimistic, prone to cliches and a smile. His speed is deceptive, he’s strong, and he uses the defender’s body as leverage to get the shot off.

“You think you’ve got him shut down,” Neely said, “and all of a sudden, he’s shooting it and it’s in the back of the net.

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“When I was in Kansas City in 1990-91, I was playing really tight on him and they knocked the ball into him and he got it off before I could even react. You’re mad at yourself, but nobody’s blaming you because you’re just helpless.”

It wasn’t always that way. Coming out of UCLA where he led the Bruins in scoring for three seasons and to an NCAA championship in 1985, Ervine began his pro career as a defender.

“At the time there were a lot of foreign players, and I was a young American guy coming out of school,” Ervine said. “(The attitude was) ‘Let’s put him in the back where he’s always facing the play.’ ”

But the turning point in his career came during his fourth season, 1989-90. He was moved to forward, his college position, and everything seemed natural. He scored a few goals in a preseason game, and then a few more, “and then I started to expect myself to do it into the season.”

Since then, Ervine has scored 269 goals in 202 games and totaled 345 points--phenomenal figures.

“I’ve always kept the frame of mind that you’re only as good as your last game,” Ervine said, “and the most important game is the next one because if that next one’s not good, that’s what people remember. Maybe that helps me in trying to keep some sense of consistency in my play.”

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No one can doubt Ervine’s consistency or his marketability.

“Getting Dale Ervine was one of our major priorities,” said Tim Orchard, Splash co-governor and director of player personnel. “We got a star indoor player who lives in Orange County (Yorba Linda).”

Orchard and the Splash have been aggressive in trying to assemble the best talent in the Continental Indoor Soccer League. Ervine, who was raised in Torrance, and Rod Castro give the team two of the best scorers in the CISL.

But Ervine refuses to rest on his past as he looks to the Splash’s future, and the championship he hopes to bring to Anaheim.

“I’ve seen too many guys who are content with what they’ve done in the past,” Ervine said, “. . . (and) when you look over the long term, for whatever reason, a lot of people seem to fade.

“The worst thing in the world for anybody in any business is complacency, and once that sets in, I think you’re in trouble. Once you start walking around patting yourself on the back--feeling really good about yourself, whether it’s individually or as a team--things will change quickly.

“In order to be successful, you have to expect to be successful. You have to have dreams and set goals. You have to push yourself or you’ll stay at the same level while the guys who are pushing themselves and the teams who are expecting to win will pass you by.”

Ervine has seen it happen. He has avoided it.

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