Leo Lifts Sockers Over Fury 4-2

The return of Leo to the Sockers lineup paid immediate dividends. 

Scoring a pair of highlight goals with an assist mixed in, Brazilian forward Leonardo de Oliveira put his skills on display at Pechanga Arena San Diego on Friday night, helping the San Diego Sockers to a three-goal second quarter, en route to a 4-2 win over the Ontario Fury. 

The Sockers (2-1) have won both matches since their Opening Night slip-up against the Cal Express. Defense ruled the day for the Sockers, who shut down the potent forward duo of Franck Tayou and Jermaine Jones for well over three quarters. Defending MASL Goalkeeper of the Year Boris Pardo made ten saves for the second consecutive match, including a three-save flurry late in the fourth quarter that helped preserve the lead.

“We preached defense all week in practice, and our defense did a lot better tonight,” said head coach Phil Salvagio, “We still have some things to clean up in film session, but it was a good step."

After a physical but scoreless opening 14 minutes, Leo unlocked the scoreless tie in spectacular fashion. With a series of ball fakes, Leo pulled Fury defender Evan McNeley first left then right, yo-yoing the veteran out of the way before ripping a shot that snuck past Fury keeper Chris Toth, ricocheting off Toth’s back, the right post and then into the net. The goal at 14:44 of the first gave the Sockers a 1-0 lead. 

The second quarter saw an early candidate for goal of the year, as a steal sprung Leo and midfielder Slavisa Ubiparipovic in on net at the 7:10 mark. Leo’s pass to the left-wing reached Slavisa just as Toth charged out, but instead of panicking or passing, the left-footer lifted a chip over Toth’s shoulder and gently into the right back corner of the net for a 2-0 advantage. It was Ubiparipovic’s third goal in two games. 

Just over a minute later, a steal and clever poke by Sockers midfielder Hiram “Pollo” Ruiz sent veteran Brian Farber in on goal one-on-one with the keeper. Choosing a quick shot, Farber rolled the ball through Toth’s legs and into the net at 8:24 for the 3-0 lead, and Farber’s third goal in as many games.

“The sweetest part was just being able to say I got (a goal) on Chris, because he’s such a good goalie,” said Farber of the play, “Pollo gave me a perfect ball, and I tried to catch Chris before he set his feet, and squeezed it in there."

A near-perfect first half closed out in celebratory style, as a last-minute counter-attack saw Ubiparipovic in the middle, and Leo on left wing. One pass, one shot, and one goal later, it was 4-0 heading into halftime, with the de Oliveira tally stinging Ontario with just 23 seconds remaining before intermission. 

With US Men’s National Team former star Jermaine Jones shut down due to a lower-body injury in the second half, the game took on a defensive crouch, as neither team had a goal or penalty in the third period. The Fury (0-1) turned up the pressure late, with a skipping tally by Franck Tayou at 6:10 of the fourth quarter denying any Pardo shutout dreams. Evan McNeley’s six attackers goal, deflected off the leg of defender Guerrero Pino and in, ended the scoring. 

San Diego has a quick turnaround, as the Sockers will host Soles de Sonora on Sunday evening at Pechanga Arena San Diego, a 5:05pm kickoff. A Sockers' beanie will be given to fans while supplies last. Tickets are available by calling 866-799-4625 or at Sockers.com.