The San Diego Sockers and Dallas Sidekicks kick off the Major Soccer League Championship series tonight in the San Diego Sports Arena.
It is the first championship meeting between the two teams, and given the Sockers history -- 7-0 in MSL title series -- the Sidekicks could be a little in awe.
But don't count on it.
Dallas, you see, is also undefeated in championship bouts. The Sidekicks are 1- 0, beating Tacoma for the title at the end of the 1986-87 season, four games to three.
The only thing that may give the Sidekicks pause is that San Diego has the home-field advantage in the best-of-seven series. During the regular season, the Sockers won the series, 4-3, with each team winning all its games on its home field.
* PLAYOFF LEADERS: Two former Blast players are the hottest scorers in the postseason. San Diego's Paul Dougherty produced seven goals in the semifinal series against the Blast, while Dallas' Richard Chinapoo scored 12 goals against the Cleveland Crunch.
* GOALKEEPING FARE: Sockers keeper Victor Noguiera played all seven regular-season games against Dallas, going 4-3 with a 4.52 goals-against-average. Dallas' Hank Henry played twice against San Diego and lost both, giving up an average of 6.87 goals. But Henry, formerly with the Blast, was in net for all of the semifinal games against Cleveland, and came out with a 4-2 record.
* IRISH ROUT: Ireland routed the U.S. National team in Dublin last night, 4-1, but it was a game of many story lines.
It was the first time former San Diego Socker midfielder Brian Quinn played for the U.S. team in his homeland.
It was the fourth consecutive start for former Blast defender Bruce Savage, who is making quite an impression on head coach Bora Milutinovic.
And it set the stage for the rematch between these two teams at RFK Stadium in Washington, May 30.
* BLASTING AWAY: The Blast has finalized its Trans Atlantic Challenge against Aston Villa in Birmingham, May 19. The trip is being sponsored by Mircro Prose, a Hunt Valley Software company that has offices in England.
Blast coach Kenny Cooper said he will take about nine players from his current roster, draft choices Jason Dieter of UMBC, Shaka Hislop of Howard University and Richie Williams of Virginia on the trip. Cooper said he also hopes to invite several MSL free agents and a select number of European players for a kind of mini-camp, while the team is in England.
"Our other goal on this trip is to put the final piece of the puzzle together for our expansion plans in England," Cooper said.
Cooper said he hopes to have two English ownership groups lined up tobe presented at the MSL summer meetings.
* MAKING A CHOICE: Several members of the Blast are eyeing spots on their respective National teams for the 1994 World Cup: Domenic Mobilio (Canada), Cris Vaccaro (Puerto Rico), Jean Harbor (USA).
All of them are excited by the prospect.
"They've [Canadian National Team] been talking to me since the end of last season and say I'm in their plans," said Mobilio. "I should find out for sure in late August."
The only one who isn't exactly thrilled by all this is Cooper.
"It may come down to players having to make a choice," Cooper said. "We're aware of the Patriotism and the pride factor. But it doesn't help me as a coach, when they leave and I'm left here as a coach trying to win games. It will probably come into the equation when we talk contracts."
Cooper said his players are aware of his feelings, and at least one of them, knows what choice he'll make.
"Playing for the National team is a long-time, special goal," said Vaccaro. "I'd love to do it. But the Blast is my first priority and commitment."
* OTHER CHOICES: The MSL has also committed its support to the U.S. Indoor 5-a-side team that will compete in the world championships in Hong Kong, Nov. 15-29.
Besides releasing players to the National team, Hank Steinbrecher, the U.S. Soccer Federation executive director, said Sunday, there are also plans in the works for a series of games between the U.S. team and MSL teams in preparation for the world event.
"The MSL is very pro-active in helping us," said Steinbrecher. "We're pretty confident it will be worked out."
* APSL EXPANDS: The American Professional Soccer League has announced it has approved a new member: The Los Angeles Salsa, which will play in the 1993 season. The team will be owned by Dr. William DeLa Pena, a Los Angeles ophthalmologist.