Match Report // Felipe Gonzalez Wins It Late, 5-4

SAN DIEGO — Felipé Gonzalez’s goal with 1:29 left in the fourth quarter gave the San Diego Sockers their first and only lead of the night, as the Sockers pulled out a 5-4 win over the Texas Outlaws on Tuesday evening at Pechanga Arena. Mitchell Cardenas tied the match with his first goal of the season at 7:19, and the Sockers out-shot Texas 11-2 in the fourth quarter to finally push through the effort of Outlaws goalkeeper Eduardo “Pollo” Cortes, who made 15 saves. 

“He kept them in the game, to be honest with you,” said Gonzalez, who moved from defender to midfield as injuries crippled the Sockers attack mid-match, “Every time we had a chance to pull away with two or three goals, he made the big saves to keep (Texas) in the match.”

San Diego (12-2, 35 points) trailed four times against the heavily outmanned Texas Outlaws (9-7-1, 27 points), who were without their top five scorers and seven starters overall, due to injury and recall to the U.S. Futsal National Team. Uzi Tayou, a defender by trade throughout his career, played up top at forward for Texas and delivered two goals and a power play assist, giving the Outlaws a 4-3 lead 27 seconds into the fourth quarter. 

San Diego looked up to realize just how short-handed they had become themselves as the match wore on. Already without leading goal scorer Brandon Escoto (illness) and 21-point scorer Gabriel Costa (wrist), the Sockers lost both top scorer Tavoy Morgan (lower body) and second-leading scorer Juan Carlos “Charlie” Gonzalez (lower body) in the same minute of the second quarter, both departing with 3:53 left in the first half. Both players will be re-evaluated on Wednesday, but head coach Phil Salvagio said he expected both to miss the next couple of weeks “at a minimum”. 

“We’ve been behind the whole match, we’ve got to get ahead,” said head coach Salvagio, “We had to get that first one to tie it up, and let us change up our strategy. It was an exciting one for the fans, very competitive.”

The Sockers pressed for the tie, dominating possession but getting thwarted by Cortes, who was 12-for-15 midway through the fourth quarter. San Diego found the equalizer from an unlikely source, as defender Mitchell Cardenas took a pass from Leonardo de Oliveira and sent in a shot from outside the attacking line through traffic, which snuck in past the diving kick save attempt of “Pollo” at 7:19 for the 4-4 tie. 

With overtime rising as a possibility in the 59th minute, forward Christian Gutierrez delivered the winning play of the match, turning Texas defender Emmanuel Aguirre in the low-left corner to pressure Cortes one-on-one. With “Pollo” retreating and guarding the left post, Gutierrez nudged a pass off the goal wall that was sneaking toward the goal line as Cortes dove to try and control the ball. Defender Erik Macias found the ball in his legs and tried to clear it, but instead hit the toe of Felipe Gonzalez, who had a point-blank shot into the net at 13:31 for the match-winner. 

“The ball popped out in front of the goal, and I just had to tap it,” said Gonzalez, “Christian did the right thing and fought for the ball, if he doesn’t do that we don’t score. It was a good win, but we can be better.”

The Sockers looked a step behind the short-handed Outlaws early in the night. Uzi Tayou, channeling the talents from afar of his brother Franck (the MASL’s all-time scoring leader), stole a too-casual pass to Cardenas and had an empty net to score into at 7:22 of the first for a 1-0 Texas lead. San Diego answered on a lovely combination play between Felipe Gonzalez and Morgan, with Tavoy netting his 17th goal of the season at 12:14 for a 1-1 tie. 

Erik Macias of the Outlaws took a routine clearance pass back from his attackers in the second minute of the second quarter, took a couple of steps in and bounced a ball that somehow snuck through two defenders while screening off Sockers keeper Boris Pardo (8-of-12 saves), inching inside a guarded left post for a 2-1 lead at 1:25. Pardo returned from a three-match suspension while battling illness, but delivered the big saves down the stretch the Sockers needed. 

“I think it was just a matter of putting our opportunities away,” said Pardo, “We need to keep building on our defense and correct the mistakes. We’re teammates and support each other.”

After San Diego saw their top scorers Tavoy Morgan and Charlie Gonzalez head to the locker room, two defenders teamed up to create a crafty equalizer at 12:53 of the second quarter. Guerrero Pino dug out a loose ball in the defensive midfield along the left wall and left it for Luis “Peewee” Ortega, who deftly turned his defender with a back-and-forth spin move, coming in on the left wing. As Ortega released his bouncing shot, Pino raced in front of Cortes with a flashing flick that did not touch the ball, but screened Cortes enough for the shot to skip into the net for a 2-2 score.