Frontwave Credit Union First Look // at Empire

The San Diego Sockers—presented by Kaiser Permanente San Diego—wrap up a busy flurry of activity with a road contest on Wednesday night against the Empire Strykers at Toyota Arena in Ontario. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:05pm, with the match streaming live on Twitch on channel @masl_soccer. 

The Sockers (6-1, 18 points), owners of the best record in MASL history all-time at 155-32-5, are back-to-back winners of the MASL Supporters Shield, awarded to the club with the league’s best regular season record. In 2022-23 the Sockers went 22-2, finishing with five more wins than the next-best team. San Diego is 51-3-1 over the last two+ regular seasons. The club saw a 16-match regular season win streak and a 25-match regular season home win streak come to an end in their last match. 

San Diego and Empire are meeting for the second time out of six scheduled matchups in the 2023-24 campaign. The Sockers prevailed in the opener between the two clubs 7-3 on December 17th at Pechanga Arena. The Sockers will return to Ontario on February 18 and March 17, while the Strykers will visit San Diego on March 1 and March 10. Historically, the Sockers are 32-9 against the Ontario Fury/Empire Strykers franchise, including a 5-1 record last season. 

This is the third match in five days for the Sockers (and the fourth in seven days if you count Thursday’s Pro Indoor Cup futsal exhibition in Anaheim, won by San Diego over Empire 5-4). Last weekend, the Sockers played their second of four interstate back-to-back challenges, posting a 6-5 win at Tacoma on Saturday night. Snowy weather delayed San Diego’s flight to and from Tacoma, and the club arrived in San Diego four hours before their Sunday contest at home, a 5-1 loss to the Chihuahua Savage. 

The Sockers attempted to thread the needle and held some key players at home for Saturday’s match in Tacoma, including captain Kraig Chiles and goalkeeper Boris Pardo. The gambit paid off in a 6-5 win, but the result was in doubt all the way to the final whistle. Brandon Escoto scored two goals including the match-winner at 12:27 of the fourth quarter, and Gabriel Costa powered the offense with a goal and two assists. Xavier Snaer-Williams won in his season debut in net, stopping 9-of-15 shots and adding an assist. 

Sunday’s match also saw the Sockers struggle, but the visiting Chihuahua Savage—featuring a new head coach, goalkeeper, and forward—put their stamp on the match, almost pulling off the first shutout of the Sockers in modern franchise history. Tavoy Morgan scored a six-attackers goal at 12:18 of the fourth quarter to deny goalkeeper Diego Reynoso (16 saves) a shutout in his Savage debut. 

Empire (2-7, 6 points) sits in fifth place in the MASL Western Division, and the Strykers are 0-4 so far this season at Toyota Arena in Ontario. The Strykers made international headlines with the signing of midfielder Marco Fabián, who has delivered on offense, leading the club with (7-8=15) points in just five matches played. Fellow Chivas alum Miguel Ponce has played one match for Empire, contributing an assist. Veteran Stryker midfielder Justin Stinson leads Empire with nine goals. The Strykers are conceding 7.33 goals-per-match on defense.