It is admirable that longtime Chula Vista resident Norbert Stein continues to passionately campaign for his beloved San Diego Sockers. At the magic century mark of 100 years, the one-time resident of Germany remains the team’s official No. 1 fan.
The Sockers certainly have appreciated Stein’s advocacy as the reincarnated franchise enters a new era.
The Poet of Chula Vista says to all “Our San Diego Sockers won 48 soccer games in a row ... They are a piece of heaven, come down to the sports arena and watch them play at seven.”
The Sockers will host the Ontario Fury Saturday, Dec. 28, at 7 p.m. at the Valley View Casino Center (formerly Sports Arena). The Sockers are riding the crest of a five-game winning streak after defeating the visiting Turlock Express, 9-6, on Dec. 21. The Sockers had their 46-game home winning streak snapped in a 5-3 setback to the Dallas Sidekicks in the 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.
The Sockers attracted 3,416 fans last week and have done rather well in the attendance department since returning “home” to the Sports Arena after playing their opening three seasons in an enclosed outdoor horse show arena in Del Mar.
General Manager John Kentera said the move has allowed the team to nearly double its attendance.
And fans are seeing a more competitive PASL. The Sockers are 5-2 and find themselves second in the Pacific Division standings to the Las Vegas Legends, who have piled up 90 goals in forging a 7-1 start. The Sockers, however, are the team that has delivered that one loss to Las Vegas (7-5 on Dec. 15 in Nevada). The rest of the division standings include Toros de Mexico (4-3, third place), Bay Area Rosal (4-4, fourth place), Ontario (2-5, place), Turlock (2-6, sixth place) and the Sacramento Surge (1-7, seventh place).
The Fury has lost its last five games.
Saturday’s game doubles at a U.S. Open Cup for Arena Soccer Round-of-32 elimination match. The Sockers will also honor retired midfielder Paul Wright when he receives hi 2012-13 PASL championship ring on the field between the first and second quarters.
“Paul Wright is one of the great athletes San Diego has ever produced and a true champion,” Kentera stated in a team release. “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, now 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, winning 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 include 1990-92, 2002-05, 2009-11 and 2012-13.
Last Saturday’s win over the Express was the Sockers’ first home victory of the season following the earlier losses to the Sidekicks and the Flash. Kraig Chiles led the Sockers to their latest win with a hat trick while Evan McNeley had two goals and two assists (a season best) and Brian Farber chipped in with two goals and an assist. Farber also starred defensively with three blocked shots, including two when the team faced a two-man disadvantage. The Sockers’ ability to kill the five-on-three penalty proved to be the key in surging to the three-goal win.
Chiles, the three-time defending PASL MVP and goals leader, has scored a goal in every game this season and has scored 16 of his 20 points in the last four games (11 goals, five assists), including three hat tricks during that span. He currently ranks eighth in the PASL in points (20) and seventh in goals (14).
The Sockers will be out to extend their 33-game consecutive division winning streak with a victory against the expansion Ontario club. The last time the Sockers lost a division game was on Dec. 27, 2010.
The Sockers have allowed 35 goals this season — best in the division. Las Vegas has allowed 47 goals. The Sockers own the third-best scoring defense in the PASL behind Hidalgo (28 goals in seven games, first) and Dallas (26 in six games, second).
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 case of the host city’s division, an additional 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.
Update: The Sockers defeated the Fury, 13-5, in front of an announced crowd of 3,683 to record their sixth consecutive victory and hand the Ontario expansion club its sixth straight setback. The Sockers built an 8-2 halftime lead.
Wright said he was honored by the on-field ceremony and 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."
At the midpoint of the 2013-14 PASL campaign, the Sockers improved to 6-2. Kraig Chiles scored four goals with two assists to pace the club to its latest victory 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).
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."