By John Philip Wyllie
The 10-time indoor soccer champion San Diego Sockers will be in Tijuana tonight (Friday, Sept. 6) when they scrimmage a local Tijuana team at the Zona Rio’s Furati Soccer Complex. The exhibition, which begins at 6:30 p.m., will provide coach Brian Quinn the opportunity to mine a few diamonds in the rough as he attempts to improve upon his 2002 roster.
“We are going down to Tijuana to play,” Quinn confirmed, “and we will take a look at some of the players there and invite them to our training camp. Two of those guys that we are really looking at are Guillermo Lucero and Christian Fimbres. They have trained with us before, but I think they will be ready this year.”
Led by former Pumas defender and team captain Alejandro Cardenas, the Sockers came within a whisker of capturing the World Indoor Soccer League title a year ago. The nucleus of that team is back, so Quinn fully expects that the Sockers will be strong contenders in their new eight-team league, the Major Indoor Soccer League or MISL.
In addition to Cardenas, the Sockers boasted three Mexican nationals on their 2001 roster and three Mexican-Americans including WISL Rookie of the Year David Beltran. If Quinn likes what he sees from a number of Tijuana-based hopefuls he will be observing tonight, he may be forced to invest in a Spanish-English dictionary.
The Sockers preseason camp officially opened August 26 with 40 players vying for the 20 roster slots that Quinn has available. The season kicks off at the Sports Arena on the evening of September 28 when the Sockers take on Milwaukee. In the meantime, Quinn will be busy forging his team into one that will attempt to continue the Sockers winning tradition.
“The only way we can improve upon last year is by winning the whole thing,” Quinn said. “We developed a lot of positive feelings within the community and a style of play that was good. The first 10 or 12 games should be very interesting. I’m not sure about the level of play (in the MISL) and the different styles of the individual teams. Having said that, I think our team was pretty exciting last year and the core of that team is back.”
With the eight MISL teams scattered across the country, the Sockers will be accumulating plenty of air miles, but jumping from a five-team to an eight-team league will make the league much more interesting.
“A lot of former MLS players that lost their jobs when the league contracted ended up playing in the A-League. The A-League schedule doesn’t conflict with ours and some of their young, but talented players may be looking to play indoors during the A-League off-season. That expected influx of new talent plus the expanded 36-game schedule played within the larger league may give the MISL a significant boost.
“It may just be the springboard that indoor soccer needs to grow again (to the level it enjoyed during the 80’s when Quinn helped to build the Sockers proud legacy as a player.)