Leo De Oliveira's Overtime Goal Nips Tropics 4-3

Leonardo de Oliveira netted a pair of goals, including the game-winner 2:56 into sudden death overtime, as the San Diego Sockers gritted out a 4-3 win over the host Florida Tropics at the RP Funding Center in Lakeland, Florida. San Diego (2-2) held the powerful Tropics scoreless in the second half after trailing 3-2 in the opening 30 minutes. Cesar Cerda scored a third quarter equalizer, and goalkeeper William Vanzela stopped ten shots to earn the win in net. 

“It was a little bit of luck, a little bit of talent,” said de Oliveira of his game-winner.

Leo may be downplaying the talent side a bit, as his goal showcased all of the foot-skill known to dazzle fans and torment defenders. Accepting a pass just inside the attacking yellow line from Mitchell Cardenas on left wing, de Oliveira danced to the middle, stepped over the ball and reversed direction, stutter-stepped and shot-faked to his left, then threaded his shot off the inside of the right post and home.

Gerardo Jurado also scored for the Sockers, who led 2-0 after the opening quarter of play. Florida (7-3) scored three straight goals in the second quarter to grab the lead, but were blanked from there by a stern San Diego defense. 

“Watching their game film last night really helped, and we tried to stay more compact defensively,” said Leo, “I think that really helped our defense.”

After a rough 5-1 loss on Thursday night to the Ontario Fury, the Sockers were looking for a quick start on Friday, and they found it when the Tropics conceded a top-arc free kick just seconds into the contest. Defender Marcio Leite found an open Jurado tucked in on left wing, who ripped his arcing shot just inside the right crossbar and into the net, giving San Diego a 1-0 lead at the :24 mark. 

The lead doubled thanks to a full-field link-up involving all three phases of field players. Sockers defender Guerrero Pino blocked Zach Reget’s turning shot attempt cold, and reversed the ball to Hiram “Pollo” Ruiz. The midfielder scooted to the defensive yellow line and found Leo with a pass hustling up left wing. San Diego’s target forward took it from there, as de Oliveira bull-rushed into the zone before scoring just inside right post for a 2-0 advantage at 8:09. 

Florida took a determined step forward to begin the second quarter, pressuring the Sockers and pinning them in the zone. Tropics defender Yoshio Sandoval cleaned up a flurry in the middle at 1:38 of the second quarter, narrowing the score to 2-1. A blue card was shown to San Diego’s Felipe Gonzalez moments later for a deliberate hand-ball, and Ricardo Carvalho laced a long shot into upper netting for a Florida power play goal at 3:36, tying the match 2-2. 

Anthony Arico tipped in a close-quarters pass from Rafa Alvez just 1:12 later for a 3-2 Florida lead, and the Tropics held their advantage into the halftime whistle. The third quarter saw Vanzela shine brightest, stopping Milwaukee imports Chad Vandegriffe and Ian Bennett on dangerous chances. 

“It’s good to have two good goalies, that’s for sure,” said head coach Phil Salvagio. 

The Sockers stepped up the pressure and were rewarded with an equalizer. San Diego’s Gordy Gurson deflected an attempted clearance pass back toward net, and Florida keeper Hugo Silva’s clumsy clear-out was scooped up by Leo. With a nod of the ball forward and one more touch, de Oliveira developed a 3-on-2 and slotted his pass to Cerda on the right wing, who knocked home his second goal of the season at 8:19 of the third, knotting the contest 3-3.

Silva and Vanzela traded tough saves in the fourth quarter, with Florida’s net-minder stopping an unmarked Escoto in front of the net at the 8:40 mark. The outlet led to Joey Tavernese having a golden chance for the Tropics on the other side of the field, only to be denied by Vanzela. 

San Diego dominated the extra period of play, denying Florida a shot or attempt on goal. An Escoto offensive-zone free kick rifled off the crossbar and out, before Leo’s heroics brought the night to an end. It was the second consecutive overtime loss for the Tropics, while the Sockers picked up a much-needed win after losing to their rivals from Ontario on Thursday. 

“Both teams lost night, so you knew they were both going to go out there and try to get that win tonight,” said Salvagio, “Both teams played hard, and it’s been a great showcase so far here in Florida for the MASL.”

The Sunshine State Showdown series will conclude on Sunday, as the Sockers (2-2) face the Tacoma Stars (2-3) in a 9am West Coast kickoff from RP Funding Center. The Fury and Tropics will follow at 1pm. Both games are available on MASL Pay-per-View on Facebook at facebook.com/MASLsoccer/events.