A Sudden Death In Monterrey

Eduardo Garay’s rebound goal 4:12 into sudden-death overtime lifted the host Monterrey Flash to a thrilling 8-7 sudden death win over the San Diego Sockers on Monday night at Arena Monterrey. San Diego (9-3) rallied from two goals down twice in the second half, including Luis “Peewee” Ortega’s equalizer with 00:57 remaining in regulation, only to see the Flash (15-1) pull out the win in extra time.

“I’m very proud of the guys, and the way we came back,” said Phil Salvagio after the Sockers lost two in a row for the first time since 2017, “We made a lot of mistakes, and we need to take care of our mistakes.”

A see-saw affair saw the Sockers play from behind for most of the night, rallying to tie the score at 1-1, 4-4 and 7-7 while trailing by two goals on four different occasions. Monterrey top scorer Bryan Aguilar had a standout match with two goals and three assists. Kraig Chiles netted a pair of goals, Peewee contributed a goal and assist, and Brandon Escoto chipped in two assists in the losing cause.

San Diego’s competitive spirit and togetherness were on display throughout a tense match in front of a raucous crowd at Arena Monterrey, where on a holiday Monday in Mexico fans were given free tickets. Yet, for the second straight match the Sockers could point to physical and mental errors contributing to an unwanted result.

“Gotta clean up the errors, man,” said keeper Boris Pardo succinctly.

“Power plays for, power plays against, we’ve got to clean it up,” said Salvagio.

San Diego conceded twice on the man disadvantage, and the Sockers have fished the ball out of the back of their net on eight of their last ten power plays against. On the other side of the field, San Diego drew four blue cards against the Monterrey defense but did not convert a power-play goal.

Monterrey’s Erick Rosas opened the scoring on a second-chance goal in the crease at 7:24 of the first quarter, only to see San Diego’s Taylor Bond respond with a scramble goal in front of the net, pushing home the equalizer after Escoto chipped a loose ball off the corner glass in traffic. The score was tied 1-1 at 8:41.

Hugo Puentes regained the lead for the Flash with a classic indoor play, recovering a wall pass from Rosas and slotting home the goal for a 2-1 lead at 9:46 of the first frame.

The theme of mistakes would be reinforced moments later as San Diego received a power play on Bryan Aguilar, but failed to convert. As the final second of the man advantage ticked off the clock, the Sockers passed the ball to exactly the wrong spot, in front of the penalty box where Aguilar was emerging. Pardo charged the oncoming attacker and was called for a trip and a blue card.

Sure enough, Aguilar would be the man to finish on the power play, slicing in a left-to-right roller from a tight angle to make it 3-1 Flash at 13:58. The two-goal lead would hold through the end of 15 minutes.

Slavisa Ubiparipovic netted on Escoto’s second assist of the match to draw San Diego within a goal at 3:35 of the second, but then the mistake motif reared its head once more. Under high pressure in the defensive zone, Pardo’s attempted kick-out caromed off the shoulder of his oncoming defender Cesar Cerda. The loose ball bounced to Garay, who knocked in his first of the night from the right wing, blasting a volley into the upper netting to reestablish a 4-2 lead at 5:28 of the second.

The Sockers dominated the next stretch of nine minutes only to come up empty. Brian Farber’s bicycle kick attempt from the middle of the crease hit the crossbar and goal line, only to bounce away from the net. Midfielder Travis Pittman pinged a pair of posts, and Chiles saw his power-play shot beat the keeper Berna Valdovinos, only to be swept off the line by a defender. The Flash led 4-2 at the halftime break.

Emerging from the locker room with determination, the Sockers saw Pardo make a big save in the opening minute of the third quarter, denying Edgar “Chapa” Flores on a 1v1 attack from the right wing. A minute later, defender Ray Contreras blocked a potential goal off the line to hold the score at 4-2 down.

San Diego’s comeback began with Chiles tapping home a back-post feed from Emmanuel Aguirre at 8:35 of the quarter, narrowing the gap to 4-3. Next, an individual effort from Guerrero Pino led to a leveling of the score, as he stole a loose ball, dribbled a defender and slammed home his first goal of the season, celebrating by running over to a group of over 30 family and friends in attendance at Arena Monterrey.

While killing a power play against, the Sockers saw Monterrey’s Hugo Puentes blue carded for a trip with 1:04 remaining. San Diego had a moment of confusion putting their lineup on the floor for 4-v-4 play, and on the whistle, Pittman was challenged from behind by Aguilar, who stole the ball and beat Pardo with a right-to-left volley for a 5-4 lead at 14:00 of the third quarter.

The Sockers turned to defensive high pressure to start the fourth frame, but Aguilar and Miguel Vaca teamed up on a perfect press break, working a give-and-go while splitting the defense for Vaca’s right-footed finish inside the right post, giving Monterrey a 6-4 lead at 3:05.

Chiles narrowed the gap to 6-5 one minute later on a goal off Cesar Cerda’s assist, but on a 4-v-3 power play, Erick Jhon Ponce’s goal from Aguilar restored the two-goal advantage at 7-5.

Once more, the Sockers would rise off the mat. Monterrey native Erick Tovar smashed in his second goal of the year, a half-volley inside the left post, with Ortega assisting to make the score 7-6 at 7:50 of the fourth. With Pardo pulled in the final minutes for a sixth attacker, Taylor Bond’s pass from the right wall found Peewee at the top of the arc. Ortega’s long shot dipped under the crossbar for a dazzling goal, drawing the Sockers even at 7-7 with just 57 seconds left on the clock.

For the third time in four meetings over the past two seasons (playoffs included), the Sockers and Flash went to sudden death overtime. Valdovinos, who made a one-handed save of Slavisa in the third quarter, robbed Ubiparipovic with a leaping save in the opening minute of sudden death. The match winner came with San Diego unable to escape the zone on an extended Flash attack. Garay found a loose ball scooped his way from Vaca, and skipped home the game-winner at 4:12 of overtime.

The Sockers have no time to rest, with a 4:00am wakeup call to head to the airport and fly to Sonora, Mexico. A Tuesday night rematch against Soles de Sonora awaits, a club that has won three straight and is looking to avenge a pair of losses to San Diego at home. The match will air at 6:30pm San Diego time on MASL.TV. The Sockers return home on February 12 to host the Baltimore Blast. Tickets are available at sdsockers.com/tickets or (866) 799-GOAL.