Defense Carries Sockers To 6-2 Win Over Tacoma
Boris Pardo stopped 14 of 16 shots faced, including dynamic saves of MASL MVP Nick Perera to close out each half, as the Sockers posted a 6-2 victory over the Tacoma Stars on Sunday evening at Pechanga Arena San Diego. A crowd of 2,412 saw the Sockers (15-6) win their ninth straight home match, moving within one win of clinching second place in the league’s Western Conference.
New acquisition Gerardo Jurado impressed with a pair of power-play goals, and team captain Kraig Chiles netted a brace with an assist for a three-point night, as San Diego improved to 3-0 against the Stars this season.
“We won our individual battles, we were organized, and we communicated well,” said Pardo of the club’s defensive effort, “Guys read off each other really well tonight, and it’s a big step in the right direction.”
San Diego used a needed turnaround in special teams to pace the night. Entering the night in the bottom five in the league both in man-up and man-down situations, the Sockers scored on both of their power plays, and repelled a pair of Tacoma penalties as well.
“The guys have been working on it,” said Pardo, “(Special teams) looked great, and we’re pretty happy. There’s always room for improvement, and we’re looking to tighten up the little things that will have us going into the playoffs feeling confident.”
The Sockers went to their most potent weapon to open the scoring: an offensive zone restart. Given a free kick on a foul near the left wall and coming out of a timeout, Ubiparipovic ran up on the ball as if to shoot, only to square a perfect crossing pass to an onrushing Taylor Bond, who slammed home his seventh goal of the season at 7:08 of the first quarter. San Diego led after 15 minutes by the 1-0 score.
Two veterans teamed up on a saucy goal to start the second quarter, as Brian Farber chipped a wall pass off the left corner glass to Kraig Chiles, who smoked a left-footed volley out of the air and into the right side netting for his 21st goal of the year, just 16 seconds into the frame.
The Stars (8-12) answered back on a tremendous individual effort from Michael Ramos, who dispossessed Farber in front of the Tacoma bench, dribbled in under pressure, and slotted his team-leading 28th goal of the season at 5:41.
Special teams have been a persistent problem for San Diego in the season’s second half, but the end of the second quarter saw a big switch to the positive for the Sockers. First, San Diego killed a blue card against defender Ray Contreras, with Hiram “Pollo” Ruiz doing diligent work at the top of the defensive formation. Moments later, it was Pollo triggering a full-strength counter-attack, and soliciting a delayed blue card against Tacoma. As the attack moved upfield, Tacoma’s Evan McNeley cleaned out Contreras for a second blue card and a 5-on-3 advantage.
The Sockers would cash in both penalties behind their precocious rookie Jurado, who nabbed a brace in under two minutes. With the two-man advantage beginning on a free-kick from the right wing, Slav found Jurado unmarked at the top of the crease, who calmly placed the ball inside the left post for his 11th goal of the season and second in two games since coming to San Diego.
On the subsequent 5-v-4 power play, the Sockers worked the ball around until finding Jurado in the low right corner with the penalty about to expire. This time, Gerardo used the left boot, bending the ball back into the left-side netting for his second goal in a row and a 4-1 lead at 14:29.
The half wasn’t over, and on a steal deep in the attacking third, Ramos fed Nick Perera for an open look from point-blank range. Pardo came up with his save of the night, a sliding right leg block of Perera to maintain the 4-1 Sockers advantage into the halftime locker room.
“I saw (Perera) was wide open, and of course they played him the ball,” said Pardo, “I just tried to get big, and to keep my right leg out there and down to the turf…I got lucky on that one.”
A scoreless third quarter saw neither team generate much in terms of juicy chances. The Stars pulled one goal back at the 1:42 mark of the fourth quarter, as Tacoma defender Cory Keitz stayed with a series of point-blank chances in the crease. Pardo made two athletic saves before Keitz hunted the second rebound for a header goal, narrowing the score to 4-2.
Again, San Diego turned to a restart opportunity to pad the lead. Working quickly off a foul in the low right corner, Chiles got the ball moving before Tacoma could set their defense, finding Cesar Cerda at the top of the arc for a one-time shot inside the left post, good for Cerda’s eighth goal of the season. Chiles scored right-footed off a loose ball at 6:09 to end the night’s scoring.
The Sockers closed out the night defending 5:27 of six attacker formation from the Stars, including a 6-on-4 power play. Raymundo Conteras, playing heavy minutes at defender as San Diego ran without starters Guerrero Pino and Luis “Peewee” Ortega, blocked a season-high five shots to anchor the defense. Pardo’s one-handed stop of Perera’s last-second shot at the horn closed out the night.
San Diego heads into next weekend knowing that one more win, or an Ontario Fury loss, will clinch second place in the MASL Western Conference and home-field advantage in the first round. The Sockers are scheduled to travel to Tacoma for a Friday night 7:35pm affair, before heading back home for a rematch against the Stars Sunday evening at 5:05pm. Tickets are available for “Alumni Night” at (866) 799-GOAL, or SDSockers.com/tickets.