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Sockers of old inspire current edition to greatness

Their names are synonymous with the pinnacle of professional indoor soccer in San Diego: Alan Mayer, Juli Veee, Jean Willrich, Zoltan Toth, Brian Quinn, Kevin Crow, Kaz Deyna and, of course, head coach Ron Newman.
They were the heart and soul of the original San Diego Sockers of the North American Soccer League and Major Indoor Soccer League.
Many have their names immortalized in banners that still hang from the rafters in Pechanga Arena San Diego. Many more are featured in the highlight video the current iteration of the Sockers play on the jumbotron before each home game.
It’s an intimidating legacy to live up to, but the 2021-22 Sockers are doing their best to do that. The Sockers, circa the Major Arena Soccer League, took a giant step toward winning the fabled franchise’s 16th indoor soccer championship after dispatching the eighth-seeded Milwaukee Wave two-games-tonone in the teams’ best-of-three Ron Newman Cup championship quarterfinal playoff series.
The top-seeded Sockers (25-0- 1) defeated the Wave, 9-2, in the teams’ opener April 7 in Wisconsin and completed a two-game sweep with Sunday’s 8-3 win at Pechanga Arena in front of 1,535 appreciative fans. The win was the Sockers’ 22nd consecutive this season.
It’s quickly becoming apparent that the so-called “new normal” operating during the COVID-19 pandemic is returning to the “old normal” where the Sockers are concerned, at least. Veteran Kraig Chiles, the franchise’s all-time leading scorer, chipped in with two goals and one assist in the opener while teammate Leonardo De Oliveira scored one goal and tacked on four assists in Sunday’s win.
Goalkeeper Boris Pardo stopped 17 of 19 shots in the series opener and made 13 saves on 16 shots in Sunday’s victory. But it’s those banners that catch the eye, at least among fans who witnessed the club’s heyday during the 1980s and 1990s, and even those who were around in 1978 when the rechristened franchise landed back in San Diego (after a year as the San Diego Jaws in 1976).
The original Sockers were around long enough to inspire a future generation of local talent to play for them. Grossmont High School alumnus Paul Wright enjoyed four stints with the Sockers (1990-92, 2002-05, 2009-11 and 2012-13) while Valhalla High School grad Anthony Medina played nine seasons with the team upon its emergence in the Professional Arena Soccer League, the forerunner of the current MASL.
Medina ended his lengthy Sockers career with a hat trick upon announcing his retirement during the team’s final regular season game in 2017-18.
Wright has his own banner in legacy row high atop the playing field. It’s next to that honoring Toth (1), which is next to Newman (head coach), which is next to Crow (12), which is next to Willrich (15), which is next to Veee (22), which is next to Deyna (10).
The Sockers’ 15 championship banners to date include two from the NASL (1981-82, 1983-84), eight from the MISL (1982-83, 1984-85, 1985-86, 1987-88, 1988-89, 1989-90, 1990-91, 1991-92), four from the PASL (2009-10, 2010-11, 2011-12, 2012-13) and one from the MASL (2020-21).
The Sockers also have four other banners hanging from the rafters — three denoting U.S. Open Arena Cup championships (2009-10, 2010-11, 2011-12) and another denoting the club’s U.S. pro soccer team record consecutive 48-game winning streak.
Somehow the banners have remained together throughout the intervening decades even if the original flashing sign used for player introductions hasn’t.
Following the sweep of the Wave, the Sockers advance to the Ron Newman Cup semifinals and will face the lowest remaining seed.
Corner kicks
Both Veee and Toth appeared at the game signing memorabilia. The Sockers also pledged charity support for Ukraine as it comes under attack from Russia.
Former Socker Jacques LaDouceur sang the national anthem.
The MASL Shield, emblematic of the league’s regular season champion, was formally presented to Sockers general manager Sean Bowers by MASL commissioner Keith Tozer (formerly a player across several American leagues and the head coach of the MISL Los Angeles Lazers and Milwaukee Wave) during halftime ceremonies.

Sockers of old inspire current edition to greatness

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Source: East County Californian

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