By Dan McLellan
San Diego is Title Town thanks to the San Diego Sockers. Our indoor soccer team went a perfect 24-0 last season en route to winning its third straight Professional Arena Soccer League (PASL) and U.S. Open Cup championships.
“Once you get a taste of a championship, it’s championships that drive the players,” says star forward and three-time PASL MVP Kraig Chiles. “It never gets old winning a championship.”
Vying for their fourth straight championship in the 2012-13 season, the Sockers are on the verge of making history - they’re entering the season on a 37-game win streak, the second longest winning streak in U.S. professional sports history. That mark is just three games short of the Sioux Falls Storm (40 in a row, 2005-08) of the now-defunct United Indoor Football League.
“We have to get to that 40 mark,” says head coach Phil Salvagio. “We have a lot of pressure on us. And with every game we win, there is more pressure.”
Reaching that goal will be facilitated by the return of ageless wonder Paul Wright, who rejoins the Sockers this season. Wright has won six championships with the Sockers over three decades, which ties Michael Jordan’s accomplishment with the Bulls. He would have won a seventh last season had he not signed with the Anaheim Bolts to help launch their franchise.
“I’m very excited about Paul Wright coming back home to the Sockers organization,” says general manager John Kentera. “We always left the door open for Paul to come back. My family enjoyed watching him play as a 19-year-old and we will continue to enjoy watching him play at a very high level as a 43-year-old.”
Wright is excited to join the team in a new capacity. “My role is to be a helper,” he says. “It’s funny to say at my old age that I can provide fresh legs, but my legs feel great and I know I can help out. I grew up at the Sports Arena and know it like the back of my hand.”
The Sockers were revived during the 2009-10 season, and for the last three seasons have played in the Del Mar Arena where they went a perfect 35-0. This season, the team will play in the Valley View Casino Center, formerly known as the San Diego Sports Arena and the Sockers home for nine championships.
Our hometown heroes will also be infused with new talent. Notable signings include SDSUSU alumni forward Raymundo Reza and defender Matt Couch.
“We are bringing aboard two quality young players in Raymundo and Matt,” says Kentera. “Both of these young men have the talent to play this game at a very high level, and both are outstanding individuals as well. They were great Aztecs, and now we expect them to be great Sockers.”
Despite once again having an elite roster, Kentera is under no illusions that the Sockers path to another championship will be easy. “The PASL has expanded dramatically, and this should be the most challenging year yet for the Sockers,” he says. “This will be the greatest year yet to come. Bring out the family for indoor (soccer) excitement.”
11/3: vs. The Sacramento
11/10: vs. Real Pheonix
11/17: at Arizona Storm
11/24: vs. Toros de Mexico