San Diego coach Ron Newman says he doesn't like all the rhymes the Sockers' public relations staff comes up with, but that hasn't kept him from following through.
Who can forget "One For the Thumb," when the Sockers were going for Championship No. 5? There was the "Joy of Six" in 1987-88. "Seven is Heaven," they said at the beginning of 1988-89, and it was.
A year ago, "Eight is Great" was the battle cry, as San Diego became the first team in Major Soccer League history to win the title after producing a sub-.500 record (25-27) during the regular season.
Now "Nine Will Be Fine," is the theme, and Newman said yesterday he's decided to accept it.
"When I went into the locker room after we'd beaten St. Louis for the series, I ripped my coat off, threw it and jumped in the air," he related last night. "My God! Can you imagine? We've done it again. I thought it would be one hell of a battle to get back to the championship round, but we rolled through it."
Newman said the Sockers took advantage of St. Louis injuries to goalkeeper Zoltan Toth and forward Thompson Usiyan.
"We were lucky we weren't the ones with the injuries," Newman said. "But when we got our teeth on their jugular, well, we've had a lot of practice at it."
Toth suffered three broken ribs in the first quarter of the first game. Then Usiyan, whose 49 goals and 22 assists kept the defense off Preki's back, went out with a hamstring pull in Game 3.
"I'd like to see if we could have challenged San Diego with a full team," said St. Louis coach Don Popovic. "But I guess at this point, it's just wishful thoughts."
Following their 7-4 victory in Game 5 Saturday night, the Sockers are now 26-1 in all playoff series.
They are in the finals for the fifth straight year, have won three straight titles, five of the last six and six of the last eight. They have also won every championship series they've played in.
It might have been more, but they took 1983-84 off to play in the North American Soccer League, where they won their second championship in that league.
Now they could make it seven of nine and rhyme or not, Newman knows that would be divine.
* COMETS STAY ALIVE: On the brink of elimination, Kansas City came up with a goal at the buzzer by Iain Fraser to send yesterday's game against the visiting Cleveland Crunch into overtime. Then Ted Eck scored at 4:27 of overtime to give the Comets a 5-4 victory.
The Crunch takes a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series into Wednesday night's game in Cleveland.
Kim Roentved had a hat trick for Kansas City, and Jan Goossens had four assists. The Crunch got goals from Rudy Pikuzinski, Dave Hoggan, Hector Marinaro and Gregg Willin.
* PITTSBURGH'S IN: MSL commissioner Earl Foreman and Pittsburgh businessman Bernie Mullin were to announce today a new MSL franchise in Pittsburgh for the 1991-92 season.
Convinced the city will support the MSL if franchised correctly, Mullin, the former vice president of the Pittsburgh Pirates, said his team will undertake a "reach out program" that will be unprecedented.
He also said his group will be building a new indoor facility in Pittsburgh, which will provide a practice facility with club office space. It also will provide an area for adult and children's leagues to generate revenue.
Mullin has a three-year agreement with the Pittsburgh Arena as a game site.
"As for the name, we're going to hold a contest and let the fans decide," Mullin said.
* THE LITTLEST SOCKER: Paul Dougherty, who could manage just 13 goals and 10 assists with the Blast all of last season, is a scoring machine with San Diego.
During the regular season, the 5-foot-2 midfielder scored 29 goals and 12 assists. In the playoffs, nothing has changed: He had five goals in the first four games, and then on Saturday night he had a hat trick to clinch the series.
"I don't know what it is," Dougherty said. "A lot of it is just continuing to make runs into the box. If you make 20 runs, you're going to get two or three good chances. Maybe it's luck, but a lot of it is my determination too."