Deflected into first place, Sockers grateful for nudge from Storm MSL notebook


The St. Louis Storm and the San Diego Sockers have been involved in a torrid first-place battle in the Major Soccer League's Western Division for the last two months. Each has so much firepower, neither needs help from the other.

But last night, Storm defender Daryl Doran deflected the ball into his own goal at 4:27 into overtime to hand the Sockers (23-13) their 13th straight home victory, 6-5.

The winning goal was credited to Branko Segota, whose frekick hit Doran and slid past goalkeeper Zoltan Toth.

It was a disheartening way for the Storm (22-14) to lose its share of first place, given the fact it had managed to beat Kansas City, 6-4, in Kemper Arena for the first time in team history only the day before.

San Diego goalkeeper Victor Nogueira (22-12) took the win and continues to lead the goalkeeping race with a 4.46 goals-against average.

* A WITTY 300: The Blast's Tim Wittman notched his 300th career point Saturday in the fourth quarter of the Blast's 9-6 victory over the Dallas Sidekicks. The achievement took Wittman by surprise, but did not leave him speechless.

"Before I started playing this game, I set goals," he said. "Way back in the beginning, I said I wanted to score 200 goals, play in five All-Star games and win two championships. But I had no idea I was about to score 300 points."

Wittman, 27, a nine-year veteran, is within two goals of 200. He has played in three All-Star games, and won one championship.

L "I guess I should hit the 200 goal mark this year," he said.

Good guess.

* WINGS WHACK DALLAS: The Sidekicks' woes continued last night, as David Byrne's goal one minute into overtime gave Wichita a 5-4 victory in Reunion Arena, breaking the Wings' eight-game losing streak.

The Sidekicks lost their fifth straight and replaced Wichita as the team with the worst record in the MSL at 13-24. The Wings are 14-24.

4 Dallas led 4-2 with 13 minutes left in the game.

* AMAZING ARMADILLO: Tatu, as MSL fans know the Dallas Sidekicks star, continues to pile up the goals despite his team's misfortune. He now has 54 goals, best in the league. Cleveland's Zoran Karic has moved into second with 51, while St. Louis' Thompson Usyian and Preki continue to defy logic with identical productions of 49 goals apiece.

* CRUNCH CRUNCH CRUNCH: Hector Marinaro scored two goals to lead the Cleveland Crunch to a 5-3 victory yesterday over Eastern Division leader Kansas City.

It was the seventh straight home win and ninth in the last 10 games overall for the Crunch (18-19). It was the second straight defeat for Kansas City (20-16), playing without leading scorer Jan Goossens (knee) and defender Kim Roentved (knee).

Marinaro's goals gave him six in two nights and 30 points in 14 games. He scored four Saturday against Tacoma, while notching his fifth hat trick of the season.

* CLASS ACTS: Blast midfielder Billy Ronson, who is not loved by his peers, made his first trip to the MSL's All-Star Game last week as a coach's selection on the East squad. Ronson played the sixth attacker in the game during the fourth quarter, and without his defense and quarterbacking in the final minutes, the East may very well have lost instead of won in overtime, 9-8.

"I had a great time," Ronson said. "The other guys were OK to me. There were a lot of major-league egos, but that was OK, too. That's what made those guys who they are. I really did enjoy it."

So did Dale Mitchell, who tied the game in front of the Kansas City fans, whom he played for for five years before joining the Blast this season.

* CLASSLESS ACTS: The Sockers may be No. 1 in the West, but the performance of San Diego's Paul Wright Friday night was so far down in the snakepit, he may never climb out -- unless it is on the shoulders of Wichita Wing Jim McGeough, who fought fire with fire.

After misconduct penalties Friday, they emerged from the penalty boxes. Wright wrapped his arm around McGeough's shoulders. Then he spit at him. McGeough spit back, but missed Wright and hit Socker Rod Castro.

NTC McGeough and Wright were both given violent conduct and red cards and ejected from the game.

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