Escoto's Hat Trick Paces San Diego To 6-3 Win

KENT,  WA — Brandon Escoto netted a hat trick and added an assist, and Christian Gutierrez scored the final two goals of the match, as the San Diego Sockers held off the Tacoma Stars 6-3 on Friday night at accesso ShoWare Center in Kent, Washington. Kraig Chiles added his tenth goal of the season on a set-piece, while Boris Pardo stopped 11 of 14 shots for his eighth win. 

The Sockers (11-0-1) won their eighth in a row in a match with a distinct Tijuana flavor. Escoto and Gutierrez, a pair of Tijuana natives who came up together through the soccer ranks, had a hand in all six San Diego goals. Escoto continued to torture the Stars as he has all season (13 points in four matches), while Gutierrez became the fourth Sockers field player with 10+ goals.

San Diego out-shot Tacoma 31-19 and controlled play in all four quarters, but saw defensive mistakes converted into goals for all three of their concessions. The Sockers built three two-goal leads but needed a last-minute score against six attackers to finally put the victory to bed.

Tacoma (3-7-1) tried to slow down the match and control tempo in the first half, and earned the first goal on a bouncing ball outside the San Diego crease that slipped to Mark Lee. The veteran knocked home his first goal of the season to make it 1-0 Stars at 7:14.

The Sockers answered quickly, as first a Guiterrez volley was parried aside by Tacoma keeper Danny Waltman (11 of 16 saves) with a one-handed block, with the rebound being won by Luis “Peewee” Ortega inside the right wall. Ortega found Escoto in the middle, who took his time to measure a goal low on the right side for his ninth of the season, and a 1-1 tie at 9:12. The deadlock held through fifteen minutes.

In the second, the Sockers showed their unselfish nature to take the lead, as a ball in the crease found its way from Escoto to Chiles, sliding toward the goal line. He tapped the ball back to Escoto as the defense over-committed for a tap-in score and a 2-1 lead 7:06 into the frame. 

Less than a minute later on a free-kick, Escoto returned the favor, slotting a perfectly weighted pass to Chiles for a goal and a 3-1 advantage, which the Sockers held into halftime. 

San Diego and Tacoma exchanged two goals apiece in an entertaining third quarter. Kevin Naranjo got the Stars faithful excited when he beat Cesar Cerda down the rightwing to build a 1-v-1 chance against Pardo, knocking a hard shot over right shoulder and in to narrow the gap to 3-2 3:54 into the period.

Escoto’s hat trick followed on a nifty piece of footwork, using a zig-zag fake with his right foot along the wall to free himself for a run to his left across the middle of the attacking zone, beating Waltman for his 11th goal of the year at 5:44 to make it 4-2. Alan Garcia, a defender called up from SDSockers2 to make his MASL debut, earned the assist on the play. 

An own goal off Guerrero Pino (credited to Tacoma’s Cory Keitz) at 8:29 made the scoreline 4-3 San Diego, and a blue card penalty on Pino gave the Stars a chance to tie the match. The Sockers league-leading penalty kill (10-for-13, 77%) came through, and Juan Manuel Rojo’s steal and counter with Gutierrez was cashed in for a right-wing goal from Christian just three seconds after the penalty expired. The Sockers led 5-3 at 11:48. 

San Diego and Tacoma negotiated a nervy fourth quarter, highlighted by a key piece of defensive brilliance from Cesar Cerda. Facing high pressure with 6:20 remaining in the game, Pardo surrendered the ball on a turnover while far away from his net, beyond the defensive yellow line. Stars leading scorer Nick Perera captured the loose ball and chipped the empty net, but Cerda raced over to head away a potential narrowing goal. 

Tacoma pulled Waltman for a sixth attacker with four minutes remaining, but the Sockers were able to withstand the storm. Pardo made a magnificent save to deny the Stars’ Alex Caceres on a corner goal, and San Diego was able to find a late counter, scoring on a Gutierrez goal-line finish from Cerda into the empty net with 0:35 remaining. 

The Sockers and Stars will meet again on Saturday night at accesso ShoWare Center, with the kickoff set for 7:05pm. The match will be streamed live on YouTube’s MASL TV.