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Paulinho Feels Good Enough to Heal Salsa : Soccer: He has the flu and almost doesn’t play, but he manages to score two second-half goals in team’s 2-1 victory over Vancouver.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Star Salsa midfielder Paulinho has a flair for the dramatic that, well, a guy better have to make that one-name thing work.

And true to form Saturday night, the high-scoring Brazilian provided his best by saving it for last. Slowed by the flu and doubtful to play, Paulinho scored two goals in the second half of the Salsa’s 2-1 American Professional Soccer League victory over Vancouver in front of 3,396 at Titan Stadium.

Paulinho scored his first goal at the game’s 58th minute, beating Vancouver goalkeeper Rob Merkl to tie the score, 1-1. His second goal, in the 81st minute, came on an assist from standout forward Paul Wright and sealed the Salsa’s second consecutive victory.

The Salsa (6-5-1) tightened its grip on third place in the APSL. Vancouver dropped to 5-7-1.

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"(Paulinho) came up big for us,” Wright said. “He really finished that second goal real nice, and we needed that.”

Not a bad night’s work for someone who was coughing up blood a few hours earlier.

“My body was feeling weak (before the game),” said Paulinho, who scored in his third consecutive game. "(Coach Rick Davis) said, ‘Let’s experiment for 15 minutes and see what happens.’ ”

Clearly, a resounding success. The league’s scoring champ and MVP last season, Paulinho scored his fifth and six goals, second most in the APSL. Wright has three assists.

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The 86ers led, 1-0, at halftime on a goal by defender Steve MacDonald, who scored on a header off a pass from midfielder Dale Mitchell, one of the league’s best offensive players, in the 14th minute. The ball just eluded the outstretched arms of goalkeeper Mike Littman and landed in the left corner of the net.

Despite outshooting Vancouver, 7-2, in the first half, the Salsa was unable create close scoring opportunities around the net.

“We weren’t worried,” Wright said. “With the way we’ve been playing, we knew we’d score.”

Littman played well in goal for the second consecutive game. He shut out league champion Colorado, 3-0, last week at Titan Stadium.

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“It’s been a good two weeks,” Littman said, “for all of us.”

The Salsa plays at Vancouver on Friday.


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