Fri, Jan 17 2014 01:42 PM Posted By: Phillip Brents
The San Diego Sockers won 48 consecutive games to set a U.S. professional sports-record winning streak last year. The Sockers dropped their opening two games at the start of this season but appear to be working on another marathon winning streak after recording their seventh-consecutive victory via a 12-7 defeat of the Toros de Mexico Sunday afternoon in Tijuana.
The Sockers return to the Valley View Casino Center (formerly Sports Arena) on Saturday to host the Las Vegas Legends in a battle for first place in the PASL Western Division standings. The Sockers improved to 7-2 after the win over the Toros while the Legends are 8-1. However, the Sockers handed the Las Vegas team its lone loss of the season, 7-5, Dec. 15 in Nevada.
This Saturday’s game will take on truly legendary proportion when the Sockers host Reunion Night as they honor the storied franchise’s legendary players from the past, including the inductees into the first two classes of the Indoor Soccer Hall of Fame.
Those celebrated Hall of Famers would include Steve Zungul, Branko Segota, Kevin Crow, Victor Nogueira, Juli Veee, Ron Newman, Zoltan Toth and Brian Quinn.
Grossmont High School alumnus Paul Wright will eventually have his name added to that illustrious list.
Wright, now officially retired at 43, suited up for the Sockers during four tours of duty with the team and seven championship runs, including three with the PASL edition of the team. The Grossmont High School alum is the only player to win both a MISL and PASL championship in San Diego.
He first appeared for the Sockers as a 19-year-old in 1990, wining the MISL championship series “unsung hero” award as the Sockers claimed the MISL title. He subsequently played four years with the Kansas City Wizards of Major League Soccer from 1996-99. Wright’s stints with the Sockers included 1990-92, 2002-05, 2009-11 and 2012-13.
The latest edition of the Sockers honored Wright during its Dec. 28 home game against the Ontario Fury by formally presenting him with last season’s PASL championship ring.
“Paul Wright is one of the great athletes San Diego has ever produced and a true champion,” Sockers general manger John Kentera explained. “It’s only right that we honor Paul in front of all the fans who watched him play for 25 years at such a high level.”
Wright was visibly moved by the on-field ceremony, which took place between the first and second quarters of the Dec. 28 game. Fans also had their emotions tugged as several well-wishers reached over the dasher boards to give Wright heartfelt hugs as he walked onto and exited the playing surface.
While at midfield under the spotlight, he proudly showed off his seven championship rings to his admiring fans.
“It was very special,” Wright said. “I have been looking forward to the night for a while. It’s nice to be back around the team — these guys are all my brothers.”
When asked which of his seven championship titles he savors the most, he answered the first and the seventh.
“There are five in the middle but the ones I cherish the most are the first one and the last one,” he said. “You always remember the first and the last one was special because it was my final season before I retired.”
The Sockers had their 46-game home winning streak snapped in a 5-3 setback to the Dallas Sidekicks in their season opener on Nov. 9, and subsequently lost to the visiting Monterrey Flash in a shootout, 6-5, on Nov. 16.
Since then, the Sockers have been perfect, though the victories have not necessarily come the easy way. The Sockers built a 6-3 halftime lead on Turlock, only to see the Express narrow the margin to 6-5 early in the fourth quarter and threaten with a five-on-three power play opportunity before the hosts rallied to eventually win 9-6 on Dec. 21.
The Sockers had an easier time defeating the Fury, 13-5, and scored 10 goals in the second and third quarters to silence the Tijuana team.
In reaching the midpoint of the 2013-14 PASL campaign with the win over Ontario, the Sockers received four goals with two assists from Kraig Chiles, the three-time defending PASL MVP and goals leader, while teammate Evan McNeley notched a four-point night for the second consecutive game.
Special teams proved critical in the Sockers’ win over the Fury. The Sockers scored on three of five power play attempts while holding Ontario scoreless on five manpower opportunities.
The 13 goals are a season high for the Sockers, who also scored their largest margin of victory this season (eight goals).
Brian Farber scored five goals and tacked on one assist in Sunday’s win over the Toros.
Sockers head coach Phil Salvagio feels his team is, in his words, “starting to click.”
“We’ve been working on our formats all year — all we needed were games (to improve),” the Sockers skipper stated in a post-game team release. “We’re going to keep getting better. This isn’t the best we’ve got.”
The Sockers extended their consecutive division winning streak to 34 games with the victory against the expansion Ontario club. The last time the Sockers lost a division game was on Dec. 27, 2010.
Drawing a crowd
The Sockers attracted 3,416 fans to the Dec. 21 match and tabulated an announced crowd of 3,683 for the Dec. 28 game. The team has done rather well in the attendance department since returning “home” to the Valley View Casino Center after playing their opening three seasons in an enclosed outdoor horse show arena in Del Mar.
Kentera said the move has allowed the team to nearly double its attendance.
And fans are seeing a more competitive PASL. Following Las Vegas (8-1) and the Sockers (7-2) in the division standings are the Bay Area Rosal (5-5, third place), Toros de Mexico (4-5, fourth place), Ontario (3-6, fifth place), Turlock (2-7, sixth place) and the Sacramento Surge (2-8, seventh place).
The PASL will select one of four sites – San Diego, Dallas, Chicago or Ontario – for the host city for the 2014 PASL Final Four (semifinals and finals). The host city will receive an automatic berth in the tournament. The playoffs will feature each of the three divisional winners receiving an opening-round bye, with the second- and third-place teams in each division meeting in a single-elimination game to then meet the division champion on the road. In the host city’s division, a fourth team will be added to the playoff format as needed. All games in the 2013-14 PASL playoffs will be single-elimination contests.
The Sockers are four-time defending PASL champions and three-time U.S. Open Cup champions.
© 2009 The Star-News