Facing a daunting weekend back-to-back, the San Diego Sockers did just enough to secure the first leg, edging the Dallas Sidekicks 8-7 on Saturday night at the Credit Union Event Center in Allen, Texas. Tavoy Morgan’s hat trick goal, on Leonardo de Oliveira’s third assist of the match, broke a 7-7 tie at 8:15 of the fourth quarter.
The Sockers (3-0, 9 points) saw Brandon Escoto net a hat trick, now leading the team with six goals in three matches. Drew Ruggles scored his first goal as a Socker to break a 6-6 fourth-quarter tie, and Charlie Gonzalez added a goal and two assists.
The winning goal came out of Leonardo de Oliveira’s ability to hold off multiple defenders and draw attention. He worked out of a double-team in the offensive right corner, drew out the Dallas keeper Juan Gamboa, and then feathered a pass around Gamboa to Morgan, who was all alone in front of the net for a slam dunk goal. San Diego weathered 2:21 of sixth-attackers offense from the Sidekicks down the stretch, with the outcome in doubt all the way to the final whistle.
San Diego played for a second straight match without captain Kraig Chiles, who was off the trip, held back for Sunday’s home match against Empire. Missing top defender Mitchell Cardenas, the defense wobbled for a third straight match, keeping a game Dallas side in the match all the way. Blaz Pérez, Flavio Guzmán, and Renato Torquato each netted braces for the Sidekicks (1-3).
The Sockers took an early 1-0 lead on Charlie Gonzalez’s goal at 6:30 of the first quarter and held the Sidekicks scoreless through the frame. San Diego’s defense allowed multiple goals each quarter the rest of the way, turning the match into a tense battle. Jamie Lovegrove and Flavio Guzmán scored at 0:18 and 6:13 of the second quarter to take a 2-1 lead.
San Diego answered back with three straight goals to finish out the half, two from Escoto sandwiching Morgan’s first of the night. First, Escoto zig-zagged on the ball after a forward pass from Christian Gutierrez, freeing himself with dazzling footwork from a double-team to score on Dallas keeper Juan Gamboa (17 saves) for a 2-2 tie.
Morgan netted a top-arc goal, finishing the rebound of Gabriel Costa’s shot for a 3-2 lead at 9:17. Escoto was set up for a point-blank shot on the far post from another Costa pass at 12:38 for a 4-2 lead, which the Sockers held into the half. It would turn out to be their only multi-goal lead of the match.
The Sidekicks scored two goals in quick succession to start the third quarter. Torquato forced a turnover in the attacking right corner and wedged a shot through a tight angle to make it 4-3 just 20 seconds into the frame. One minute later, slopping attempts at midfield steals led to an open Guzman at the top of the arc, who beat San Diego keeper Boris Pardo (10 saves) straightaway for a 4-4 tie at 1:50.
The Sockers converted their only power play of the match at 4:22 of the third quarter, as Escoto finished his hat trick on Leo’s second assist of the night for a 5-4 lead. Panamanian World Cup star Blaz Pérez returned the favor courtesy of a soft San Diego defense, allowing Nestor Hernandez to control a loose ball and feed Pérez in the middle of the crease for a point-blank shot at 12:58 for a 5-5 tie.
San Diego has been brilliant in fourth quarters so far this season, outscoring the opposition 9-3 in their first two matches (and now 12-4 after three matches). The Sockers started this fourth quarter in equally brilliant form, as Charlie Gonzalez’s long lead pass from the left wall curved diagonally through the air up to Morgan, who was able to convert from the right wing at 0:47 of the quarter for another Sockers lead, this one 6-5.
The Sockers felt hard done by a non-call on Dallas trying to break out of their zone, as Albert Rodriguez caught Gabriel Costa up high with an inadvertent hand. Ruggles retaliated with an elbow that was good enough for a blue card penalty, giving the Sidekicks their only power play of the night. The San Diego defense held firm until the final two seconds of the man advantage, when Pérez directed a shot off the near-post glass that ricocheted off Pardo’s right hand into his net at 4:20. The match was tied yet again, 6-6.
Ruggles took a Charlie Gonzalez side-wall lateral pass and worked right-to-left across the middle of the Dallas defense before unleashing a wicked left-footed strike into the upper net at 6:56, and with a 7-6 lead, the Sockers hoped to take control. Instead, just a minute later Torquato was given room to roam through the middle of the San Diego defense, finishing a close-quarters pass from Albert Rodriguez with a sprawling goal for a 7-7 tie at 7:57.
The Sockers fly home Sunday morning just hours in advance of their second match of the weekend, a 6:05pm home match against Liga MX star Marco Fabián and the Empire Strykers. Tickets are available at the Pechanga Arena box office, sdsockers.com or at (866) 799-GOAL.