The Coast News Group
Aaron Susi (left) and Riley Swift cheer the crowd after Saturday's win. Photo by Tony Cagala

Sockers perfect season of perfection

DEL MAR – The Sockers’ regular season of perfection came to a fitting close Saturday night at home at the Del Mar Arena, with a win 9-4 against the Tacoma Stars. It was the first time in Professional Arena Soccer League that a team had completed the season undefeated.

Head coach Phil Salvagio surveys the crowd during a break in the action. Photo by Tony Cagala
The win also continued the streak of 32 wins in-a-row at the Del Mar Arena and continued the track of longest winning streaks in professional U.S. sports history at 34, surpassing the 33-game win streak of the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers, which featured Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West, Pat Riley and Elgin Baylor.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” said head coach Phil Salvagio. “This is a team. They work for each other. We eat, drink and play soccer for each other.”

When asked when he thought this season was going to be special Salvagio said, “Probably right about now.”

Before the team had even played a game general manager John Kentera felt this team was going to be the best of the three teams since coming off back-to-back U.S. Open Championships in 2010 and 2011. “We felt this was the best team…because we had so much depth and firepower.”

Team captain Aaron Susi was seemingly nonplussed by the win streak and undefeated season, saying: “That’s great and all; we’re just trying to fine-tune our game for the playoffs, we know we have a good team, we’re just going out there to work the ball around, play team defense and finish our chances and that’s what we did.”

Aaron Susi gets the team focused during Saturday night's win over the Tacoma Stars. Photo by Tony Cagala

Susi, who before the game was presented with a Bulova watch emblazoned with the Sockers logo on the face for scoring his 500th point Jan. 21, did concede that this season has been fun.

“It’s the team I grew up watching. It’s fun to be a part of it, fun to be a part of history and hopefully we can continue this into the playoffs,” he said.

“I’ve never been a part of team with this many wins in a row; it’s exciting,” Susi said. “It’s fun to go into games…with a bull’s-eye on your back but we’re doing our best to get the wins and keep it going and that’s all we can do.”

He said he can tell their opponents have respect for the Sockers just by the way they play against them. “That’s all that matters to us.”

With the season being full of successes, including Kraig Chiles’ league-leading 46-goal season, it was still all just a meeting of the team’s expectations, Kentera explained.

“We expect to win every game,” he said, adding, “We expect to win a championship. And with this organization…if we don’t win a championship it’s a disappointment.”

Captain Norbert Stein (left) at age 99 is thought to be the oldest Sockers fan, receives honors from general manager John Kentera. Photo by Tony Cagala

In another pre-game ceremony, Captain Norbert Stein, who, at age 99, is thought to be the oldest-living Sockers fan. Stein received a framed photograph and a placard naming Field Box 1, seat 1, row 1 the “Captain Norbert Stein” seat.

With the conclusion of the regular season the Sockers will ready for the Ron Newman Cup March 9 and March 10 at the Del Mar Arena. The team will then head to Cincinnati, Ohio for the U.S. Open Cup Championship March 17.