by John Philip Wyllie
The tradition continues at the Sports Arena Saturday night when the San Diego Sockers battle the Dallas Sidekicks for the WISL championship. Like many of the previous teams that have donned the Sockers trademark blue and gold, the 2001 Sockers reincarnation has set the league standard. Scoring goals in droves while defending their own net with great effectiveness, the Sockers have risen to the top of the five team league. None of that will matter on Saturday night however.
Their quest for another banner for the rafters of the San Diego Sports Arena comes down to two games: a regulation game that they must win to draw the series even at one game a piece and then a championship deciding ten minute minigame for the whole enchilada.
The good news is that the home town favorites own a 4-2 regular season record against their Texas opponents. The bad news is that the Sidekicks beat them convincingly in game one of the series 6-3 in Dallas. Both teams had identical 14-10 records during the regular season, so as it should be, Satur-day's title match will be contested between two evenly matched teams.
Head coach Brian Quinn, himself a star on eight of the Sockers championship teams, will be looking for a trio of players with Mexican ties to make key contributions. Unfortunately, all three have strug-gled recently with nagging injuries. Defensively, team captain Alejandro Cardenas (thigh strain) will be called upon to organize the backline. His job will become significantly easier if WISL Rookie of the Year David Beltran can return after suffering a hip strain several games ago. Finally, Mauricio Alegre, one of the teams top goal scorers with 14 goals and five assists, has been slowed of late by a strained hamstring. The fact that he notched one of the three goals in the losing cause against Dallas Saturday night offers hope that he is regaining his form. Cardenas minimized the injuries in a recent phone interview.
"I just had a little bit of a problem with my quad," he said. "Beltran is still a little banged up, but we are both going to work very hard in practice, so we should be fine. The team is sound, both mentally and physically," he added.
Following their regular season ending 5-0 victory over the Sidekicks on December 2, several of the Dallas players accused their Sockers' counterparts of spitting at them and generally playing dirty.
Cardenas minimized the alleged bad blood between the teams saying that, "there is nothing personal between us and them. (The spirited play is) just a result of two teams trying hard to win the championship."
Despite the fact that Sidekicks own a one game lead in the best of three series, Cardenas and his teammates remain confident that on Saturday night, an eleventh banner will be secured for the city of San Diego. "It's normal for a team to win at home (so he is not surprised that the Sidekicks jumped out to a one-game lead). Then he reminded me, "we are going to be playing both of the next two games at home. Kickoff is at 7:05 p.m.