Splash Fail to Put Away Key Opportunities, Sockers


The Splash survived a halftime showdown against the Sockers under the stands at the Sports Arena, but didn't fare as well in the final outcome on the field.

The Splash lost a 4-3 decision to San Diego Sunday in front of 3,078, forcing a decisive Game 3 Tuesday at The Pond of Anaheim.

"I feel confident we can take care of them at The Pond," Splash defender John O'Brien said. "If they only score four goals at our place, no way they're going to beat us."

Most Splash players were surprised the Sockers won Sunday, recalling the Splash's better scoring opportunities but an amazing inability to finish.

"We didn't execute on the basics," midfielder Doug Neely said. "We created our chances. In the third quarter we dominated them but only got one goal out of it."

That was O'Brien's goal, and it came 1 minute 42 seconds into the second half. It made the score 3-2 and preceded a couple of two-on-one scoring opportunities by Armando Valdivia and Bernie Lilavois.

"It takes a little momentum away," O'Brien said of the missed two-on-ones. "We didn't even get off a quality shot."

That was because Socker goalie Antonio Cortes (16 saves) jumped in front of Valdivia's pass to Lilavois, and got a leg on Lilavois' breakaway shot.

"We didn't put our two-on-ones away and they did," Splash Coach George Fernandez said. "I've never seen so many chances in my life."

The Splash, which outshot the Sockers, 35-30, cut the lead to 4-3 one minute after Molomo scored; Denis Hamlett knocked in Raffaele Ruotolo's free kick.

"We gave up bad goals and didn't finish our chances," Hamlett said. "Simple as that.

"Lately, we haven't been giving up the bad goals, but tonight we did. When it comes down to the playoffs, whoever makes the least mistakes wins."

The two lapses on defense led to the third and fourth goals, both by Molomo.

Molomo scored to make it, 3-1, with 2:09 before halftime. Goalkeeper Ruben Fernandez (17 saves) had no chance.

As players walked toward the locker rooms, Paul McDonnell said Socker midfielder Toby Taitano (5 feet 8, 155 pounds) "pulled" at Francisco Jaime (5-6, 135).

Lilavois, whose goal tied the score, 1-1, jumped to Jaime's defense and the teams squared off under the stands.

"They're not ones to back down and we're not going to back down," McDonnell said. "Playoff tensions run high."

Said Splash forward Jose Vasquez: "They're just trying to match up and get under our skin. They'll have to do better than that. . . .

"They're playing at home--they should be able to put us away."

It led to words between Socker Coach Brian Quinn and Splash defender Sean Bowers.

"It just escalated," Bowers said. "He called our team some stuff and I defended our team."

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