DEL MAR — For San Diego Sockers general manager John Kentera, Saturday night’s home opener marked the fulfillment of two goals – one personal and one professional. The first was to win a championship ring and the second was to bring the Sockers back to prominence in the community.
“We’ve done a lot of stuff during the offseason,” Kentera said. “I think the energy and the crowd support was great.”
Not only did the crowd of 2,621 at the Del Mar Arena witness a thrilling overtime win 7-6 against the new expansion team Anaheim Bolts, but also the hanging of the 2010-11 championship banner, the 12th in the team’s history, the presentation of rings and the inaugural performances of the Socker Girls.
“I thought the girls were fabulous,” said Robin Wayman, dance team director. “I truly believed they added to the game day experience.”
That extra addition to the game day experience was what Kentera had hoped to bring since becoming general manager in September of 2010. The tireless 53-year-old Solana Beach native and radio personality could recall fond memories of taking his family to Sockers games back when they played at the San Diego Sports Arena.
“We had good Socker memories, but we had great family memories,” Kentera said. “We were going to those games in the late-80s and we had so much fun…For a young family, it was good bonding time.”
When Kentera was offered the position, it was something that he had to consider before accepting. He wasn’t prepared to leave his job in sports talk radio on XX 1090 AM, and as it’s turned out, he hasn’t had to.
“I love it. I really enjoy it,” he said. “I always wanted to be a general manager of a team.” Last year the team was able to increase its attendance; they added extra promotions during the games, they had a better record than in previous years and they’ve also created a new shield emblem.
It was a team effort when it came to designing the new emblem, which features a grouping of twelve golden stars, one for each championship the team has won, the San Diego skyline in the background, including one of the finishing touches, the addition of the Coronado Bay Bridge, that team captain Aaron Susi suggested.
The team has made great strides to become more involved in the community and has also made coming to the arena a fan-friendly environment. “(Fans) are going to see a soccer team that has played for a long time together and they’re going to see fast end-to-end physical action, high-scoring, red lights, horns going off,” Kentera said.
“The average American fan doesn’t like regular outdoor soccer. Why? Because (there’s) not enough action, not enough scoring and it’s just kind of boring. Well, with indoor soccer all those things go away. It’s end-to-end action.”
The motivation for this season is to win another championship, Kentera said. “Anything less would be a real disappointment.”
The guys who play on the team are in the various stages of their soccer careers. Aaron Susi is a 15-year veteran of indoor soccer, 37-year-old Encinitas native Nate Hetherington looks to make a strong impact after having knee surgery and 27-year-old Kraig Chiles, a graduate from San Diego State and former MLS player.
“We’re a San Diego team; we’re a championship team,” said Kentera. “How can you not root for these guys? They’re from San Diego, not only is the team from San Diego, a high percentage of these players were born and raised here; they’ve developed their skills here. Several of them played either at San Diego State or USD and if they didn’t, they played high school soccer here, went away and came back. This should be the easiest team in San Diego to root for,” he added.
The Sockers next game is Nov. 26 at the Del Mar Arena against Revolucion Tijuana. For more information, visit sdsockers.com.