Paul Wright to Have Jersey Retired by SD Sockers
The San Diego Sockers announced in recent weeks that the club will retire the number of Paul Wright and raise a banner in the rafters at Pechanga Arena. The Englishman put up astounding numbers during his arena soccer career, including more than 150 goals for the Sockers.
The salute to Paul Wright and the banner ceremony will take place on the annual alumni night.
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MASL Soccer News: The 14-time National Champions, the San Diego Sockers, are retiring Paul Wright’s jersey in a pregame ceremony on Sunday, April 7th.
The ceremony will precede a matchup versus Rio Grande Valley Barracudas with kickoff at 5:05 p.m. PT at Pechanga Arena San Diego. The beloved Sockers’ alumni game will take place at halftime.
The legendary Sockers’ forward will have his #3 jersey retired with a banner raised in the arena rafters.
“This is bigger than I ever imagined, and I am overwhelmed,” said Paul Wright. “I really want to thank the Sockers for this honor, there are so few players who have had their jersey retired in the history of the franchise. It is the wildest dream that I ever had.”
Wright has scored an amazing 435 goals and recorded 421 assists in his 603-game professional soccer career.
This tally includes the 11 goals he scored when playing in the MLS for Sporting Kansas City which was then called Kansas City Wizards. Wright was selected by Kansas City in the third round of the 1996 MLS Supplemental Draft.
Although Wright had a successful MLS career, it was the Sockers’ team that Wright called family. Wright signed four separate times with the Sockers and many of his goals were scored while proudly wearing the crest.
“The Sockers is a family. I grew up and signed when I was 17 years old, all the legends who are in the banners — those were my mentors,” said Wright. “Signing and re-signing with the Sockers was always like coming home.”
“My heart has always been with the Sockers,” said Wright.
“It is with great pleasure that we honor Paul Wright and retire his jersey,” said Sean Bowers, San Diego Sockers General Manager.
“I have known Paul since we were both young and were in the draft together. We have played side by side for years and I am so proud we are celebrating his career. He deserves this honor and has really contributed to the success of the Sockers and the growth of the game,” said Bowers.
In the entire history of the Sockers, the club has only retired six jerseys. Juli Veee, Kaz Deyna, Jean Willrich, Kevin Crow, Brian Quinn, and Zoltan Toth. An honorary flag for coach Ron Newman hangs among the retired player flags, a tribute to the man who first coached the team in 1980 when it still played outdoor soccer in the NASL. Newman coached the Sockers to 10 national championships.
“I am proud of what I have left behind and now it is time to be that ambassador and keep growing the game,” added Wright.
Thinking back on his career Wright said, “I always lived in the moment, and when I retired, I was fully focused on my company Speed to Burn and then time passed, and I never really reflected on my career. This is really the first time I have looked back, and no, I do not remember every goal, but I know it was a long career.”
How did Wright manage such a long-lasting and impactful career? “I have been blessed with athletic ability and being able to stay healthy all those years,” said Wright. “It is a combination of a gift from the man above and the heart and the will to make it happen.”
Wright’s name was on the ballot along with Fernando Clavijo, Victor Nogueira, Branko Segota, and Steve Zungul. The London, England, native was selected after a vote by the fans, alumni, media and current players. Each vote was worth 25% of the total vote.
Paul Wright’s Soccer Career:
Wright’s professional soccer playing career began in 1988 and he hung up his pro cleats after the 2012 arena soccer season. When he retired in 2013, Wright said, “ I started playing soccer when I was seven and I’m now 43.”
“I have no regrets. I am very fortunate.”
Wright’s career began as a San Diego youth soccer player with the Nomads and at Grossmont High School, where he set a single-season scoring record with 39 goals. Always known for his speed and amazing athletic ability, Wright was identified as an impact player from an early age.
It was back in 1987 when he joined the senior San Diego Nomads team, playing through 1990. Then, in 1989, he was drafted by the Cleveland Crunch of the Major Indoor Soccer League (MISL) and was traded to the San Diego Sockers for the first of his four tours with the team. It was then he met the legendary coach of the Sockers, Ron Newman — a man who would have a major impact on the young Wright’s career.
“Newman once said to me ‘You have all the talent in the world it would be a shame if you ruined it,’” Wright remembered. “I thought, if this guy believes in me, with all the talent around him and every player he’s coached, I better grow up.”
“Ron Newman is one man I never wanted to disappoint,” Wright said.
“He practically raised me from the age of 17 to 22 when I first left for England,” said Wright. “He taught me the greatest lessons in soccer.”
In his first season with the Sockers, Wright would help lead the team to the MISL championship where he was named the Championship Series Unsung Hero.
Wright remained in San Diego until the MISL folded in 1992, scoring 101 goals in 100 appearances. Wright would then move on to play in Milwaukee, Los Angeles, Baltimore and Wichita over the next several years.
Wright and Newman were reunited from 1996-1999 at Sporting Kansas City (which was then known as the Kansas City Wizards.)
The San Diego Sockers would call Wright back to the team in 2002 with the team’s return to the MISL, which lasted until 2005.
In 2009 he again signed with the Sockers, helping take the team to championships in 2010 and 2011. Then, in 2011, Wright surprised the soccer world by signing with the expansion Anaheim Bolts but after one season in Anaheim, Wright re-signed with the Sockers a one-year deal to close out his career back in San Diego.
Always a player who created an immediate impact, Wright scored a goal in the team’s home opener shortly after the team welcomed him back.
Wright, who can remember when the Sockers played in front of more than 10,000 fans every game believes the indoor game has a bright future. “Landon Donovan coming into the league has certainly raised awareness of the indoor game, and fans have always loved its high scoring and fast pace,” said Wright. “The indoor game is a very skillful game.”
“The path to success is hard. I am not going to sugar coat it,” said Wright.
“There will be disappointments and you will get knocked down, but with the will to take no for an answer — it only takes one GM to sign you,” said Wright. “You don’t have to be awesome for everyone. You only need one yes, and once you get in the door, you never look back.”
Currently, Wright focuses on his company Speed To Burn which has trained Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, former LA Dodgers outfielder Trent Oeltjen, LA Clippers forward Grant Hill and U.S. Men’s National Team forward Herculez Gomez, among others. Developing young players on their journey to becoming pros has been a top priority for Wright and Luca de la Torre is just one of the many young professional players Wright has trained.
Up Next for the Sockers:
The Sockers will attempt to continue their stellar form in the 2018/19 Major Arena Soccer League (MASL) season when they host the Barracudas on April 7th. The MASL club has won 17 straight matches, with a perfect 10-0 road record. San Diego is currently on the quest for its 15th arena soccer championship.
Prior to the ceremony for Wright, the Sockers continue their four-match road trip on Sunday, March 31, versus the Tacoma Stars. Kickoff is at 5:05 p.m. PT. The Sockers then travel to the Inland Empire to face off against the Ontario Fury on Thursday, April 4, at Citizens Business Bank Arena. The match is scheduled for a 7:00 p.m. PT kickoff.
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Chris Rael contributed to this article.