The San Diego Sockers: A Dynasty Continued
A look at the recent history of the 14-time indoor champions

The proudest franchise in the sport of indoor soccer, the San Diego Sockers returned to action in 2009 after a five-year hiatus thanks to the leadership and inspiration of local businessmen David Pike, Carl Savoia and Phil Salvagio. It was one thing to bring back the Sockers name, but these men knew the real work would be in restoring the Sockers’ dynastic domination of their sport. Salvagio, a former Sockers goalie and the team’s head coach, carefully crafted a combination of rising young talent and the veteran leadership to guide and train the team.

The Sockers’ return to professional action took place on November 7th, 2009, as a crowd of nearly 3,000 packed the Del Mar Arena to watch the Sockers defeat the Stars of Mexico 9-5. The team’s PASL opener was a thrilling 5-4 overtime victory against the California Cougars, setting the tone for a Del Mar run which saw the Sockers never lose at home, often pulling out victories in thrilling, last second fashion. The Sockers finished the regular season with a league-best 13-3 record.

San Diego’s 11th major indoor title came in the 2009-10 PASL-Pro North American Championships, when the Sockers defeated Guadalajara 9-8 to cap a thrilling weekend of playoff action in Del Mar. Behind new general manager John Kentera, the Sockers reloaded for 2010-2011, improving on their regular season mark with a 14-2 record while nearly doubling attendance. San Diego rolled through the 2011 PASL-Pro North American Championships in Cincinnati, defeating tough sides from Monterrey and Guadalajara on route to their 12th indoor title.

With almost no room for improvement, the Sockers took another step forward in 2011-12, recording the first perfect season in PASL history. A 16-0 regular season campaign included star forward Kraig Chiles’ second consecutive league MVP award, as he set a league record with 46 goals. The Sockers defeated Kansas and Detroit in the Ron Newman Cup PASL Championships, and traveled to Cincinnati to win their third straight U.S. Open Cup. With a four-game sweep of the FIFRA Club Championships in Monterrey, the Sockers finished 24-0 in 2011-12 and captured three major trophies.

The 2012-13 season began with the focus on the Sockers homecoming, and their pursuit of U.S. pro sports history. The longest winning streak in any U.S. pro sports league, major or minor, was held by the Sioux Falls Storm of United Indoor Football, a run of 40 straight wins. San Diego left the Del Mar locale that had brought them so much early success and returned to their original home, the San Diego Sports Arena (renamed the Valley View Casino Center) with a 37-game winning streak intact. 

The reaction was immediately positive both on and off the field. The Sockers drew over 40,000 fans to the VVCC over the course of another undefeated home schedule, including a PASL team record 4,703 on February 10th. San Diego won the first four games of the season, securing their 41st straight win and breaking the pro sports record with a 14-4 victory over Toros de Mexico on November 23rd, 2012. The record-breaking win garnered national attention, including a feature on Fox Sports Soccer and online coverage from ESPN. The Sockers finally saw their streak stopped with a 6-5 overtime loss at Dallas, but not before setting a new U.S. pro sports record with 48 straight victories. 

Finishing with the best record (15-1) in the PASL for the fourth straight season, the Sockers entered the Ron Newman Cup playoffs as the host team and with all the pressure of a four-peat bid on their shoulders. The Turlock Express proved to be a worthy opponent in the Pacific Division playoffs, pushing the Sockers by forcing overtime in the opening leg. Kraig Chiles golden goal in OT gave San Diego a 12-11 win, and they finished off Turlock 13-4 the next night to advance to the Ron Newman Cup semi-finals. There, it again took golden goal "Sockers magic" to move on, as a PASL playoff record crowd of 4,287 saw Chiky Lunas overtime half-bicycle kick find the back of the net for a thrilling 6-5 OT win over the Las Vegas Legends. The next nights Ron Newman Cup championship was another epic battle, with the Sockers prevailing over Detroit for the second straight season, this time by an 8-6 score.

The Sockers did not know it yet, but they had concluded one of the great runs in the history of the franchise, the sport, and in U.S. pro sports. Four straight championships, 48 straight wins. The next two seasons would bring competition, transition, and a cementing of the franchise's place in San Diego sports, but championships would prove harder to capture.

The 2013-14 team set a new team PASL attendance record at the Valley View Casino Center, drawing over 34,000 fans over the eight game home schedule. A shocking 0-2 home start to the season was followed by thirteen wins in fourteen games as the Sockers finished the regular season at 13-3, tied with the Las Vegas Legends for the Pacific Division top spot. Kraig Chiles notched a record third straight 60-point season while Chris Toth shined in his first year as starting goalkeeper with a 12-3 record and goals against average of 4.89. Defender Evan McNeley also earned all-PASL honorable mention honors. The Sockers beat Toros de Mexico 7-4 in the opening round of the playoffs but fell to the Legends 11-7 in Las Vegas on March 1st to end San Diego's remarkable run of four consecutive championships. 

The summer of 2014 was one of momentous change for the sport of indoor soccer, as the two primary professional indoor leagues reformed into a singular body: the Major Arena Soccer League (MASL). Now competing as a 22-team body across the United States and Mexico, indoor soccer saw unprecedented levels of competition and interest. The Sockers drew their two largest crowds since coming back to action in 2009, including a PASL/MASL team record 7,311 in attendance for a 13-4 victory over the Tacoma Stars. The game was highlighted by the participation of Evan Mundine, a 17-year-old afflicted with Crohn's disease, Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and ulcerative colitis, yet still strong enough to not only sign a pro contract with the Sockers, but to play in the game and score the game's first goal. 

The Sockers completed a 16-4 regular season in 2014-15, returning to the top of the Pacific Division table, and saw several players earn all-MASL honors, including first-team forward Kraig Chiles (45 goals, 62 points), second-team defender Eduardo Velez (16 goals, 35 points) and third-team forward Nick Perera, who returned to the Sockers after three seasons in Milwaukee and led the team with 22 assists (27 goals, 49 points). Goalkeeper Chris Toth (12-3, 4.58 GAA) was also named to the all-MASL third team, while Brazilian rookie midfielder Ney (16 goals, 22 points) earned recognition on the MASL All Rookie Team. For the second straight year, however, the Sockers saw their season come to an end at the hands of their rivals the Las Vegas Legends, who came to the VVCC and handed San Diego their first home playoff loss in six seasons of competition, a 7-6 defeat in front of 4,279 passionate fans.

With the 2015-16 MASL season approaching, the Sockers are preparing for another season of high-level competition, and as is always the case with this franchise, the singular goal is a championship. With new roster additions and another full offseason of training and preparation, the Sockers are ready to take on all comers in pursuit of another Ron Newman Cup and the hanging of a fifteenth championship banner in the Valley View Casino Center.