Match Report // San Diego's Late Rally Falls Short

ONTARIO, CA — The San Diego Sockers, presented by Kaiser Permanente San Diego, dropped a 6-4 decision to the Ontario Fury Saturday night at the Ontario Arena. Cesar Cerda scored twice for the Sockers during a four-goal fourth quarter, but the late rally could not prevent San Diego’s third straight loss (3-5) on the season. 

Brandon Escoto and Leonardo de Oliveira also netted fourth-quarter goals for the Sockers, but the issue laid squarely in the 45 minutes prior: no goals, despite massively out-shooting the Fury on the night 39-18. The Fury netted three goals in the second quarter, all on counter-attacks, and saw keeper Claysson de Lima stop 20 of 24 shots for the win. 

After losing 17 of the first 19 matchups head-to-head in franchise history, Ontario (7-3) won their third in a row against their Southland rivals, and clinched second place in the 2021 Major Arena Soccer League regular season. Charlie Gonzalez led the way early with a pair of goals, while Franck Tayou contributed three assists in the second half. 

All seven teams participating in the Major Arena Soccer League 2021 COVID-influenced season will reach the Ron Newman Cup playoffs. San Diego finds itself in fifth place, and can finish no higher than tied for fourth (which would require Kansas City to lose to Dallas). They need one win against Tacoma or Dallas in their final two matches to retain fifth place, and two wins to avoid the first losing season in the twelve years of the Sockers’ third iteration. 

The Sockers came out determined to pressure a Fury side that was playing its fifth match in eight days overall, and third in four days this week. San Diego forced a loose ball that needed to be cleared off the line in the opening seconds, and “close but no cigar” was immediately installed as the early theme. Three more golden chances later in the quarter came up wanting, and the score remained 0-0 after fifteen minutes. 

Set pieces betrayed San Diego in the second quarter, as three chances in the attacking third were all missed, with the rebounds being converted into counter-attacks. Juan Carlos “Charlie” Gonzalez converted the first two, including a 2-on-0 rush on the keeper William Vanzela, and Andy Reyes got a back-post feed from de Abreu (goal + two assists) with just 39 seconds left in the half to establish a 3-0 halftime score-line. 

While the Sockers again tried to ratchet up the pressure to start the third, the story remained largely the same. An early open chance for Brian Farber wouldn’t fall at high speed; Tavoy Morgan hit a post, and a handful of other chances, including a power play, all came up empty. Justin Stinson scored on an assist from Tayou at 14:06 of the quarter, and after 45 minutes, the score was 4-0 Fury. 

Escoto’s 10th goal of the season opened the Sockers’ account at 1:32, coming on a power-play assist from Morgan, who picked up a point in his debut after being acquired on loan from the Harrisburg Heat. Leo’s goal, settling the rebound of an Escoto shot before stutter-stepping to a left-footed near-post finish, came at 3:27 and forced a Fury timeout. 

Tayou used the second effort to set up Stinson’s second, and a wicked shot netted the eventual game-winner, at 7:15 of the fourth. Cerda scored twice in the final minutes: on a set-piece, and again with six attackers. Sandwiched in-between was a Fury shootout attempt on what was ruled a deliberate handball against another new Socker, defender Nelson Santana. Tayou’s shot was deflected but he fed de Abreu off the rebound to make it 6-3 at 12:30. 

The Sockers will face the Tacoma Stars on Sunday afternoon to close out the weekend, a 3pm PDT kickoff from Toyota Arena.