Match Report // Sockers Rebound With 8-5 Win
ONTARIO - It’s the kind of goal that drops jaws, lights up social media and electrifies the soccer world. Brandon Escoto netted a spectacular bicycle goal from well behind the attacking yellow line, the highlight of a San Diego Sockers 8-5 win over the Empire Strykers on Wednesday night. San Diego (7-1) rebounded from their first loss of the season, using a five-goal third quarter to open up an 8-1 lead.
The moment everyone will be talking about the rest of the season: Escoto accepted a quick steal from defender Mitchell Cardenas, passed the ball up in the air to himself from the middle of the field and lept for a right-footed kick over his head that sailed over the defense and keeper into the net at 5:57 of the fourth quarter. As his teammates mobbed him, Escoto laughed and smiled, part of a two goal, one assist night.
Sockers captain Kraig Chiles became the fifth player in MASL history to score 400 points, earning an assist on a clever set-piece pass to Drew Ruggles in the third quarter. Tavoy Morgan added a goal and two assists for San Diego, although he appeared to suffer a leg injury in the final minutes of the fourth quarter.
Rebounding from a loss on Sunday night at home to defending champion Chihuahua, the Sockers scored in the first minute of the match, as former Stryker midfielder Gabriel Costa laced home a goal on the first shot of his return to Ontario in an opposing uniform. San Diego led 1-0 after fifteen minutes.
An unfortunate swing of the leg put keeper Boris Pardo (16-of-20 saves) into the penalty box, as Strykers defender Stefan Mijatovic ran in front of him as he tried to clear a ball out of his zone. With the ball away, his leg struck Mijatovic for a blue card and a penalty kick, which Mijatovic finished himself at 12:13 of the second quarter for a 1-1 tie.
The Sockers regained the lead just before halftime, as Juan Gonzalez netted his first goal of the season, finishing Morgan’s pass in the box for a 2-1 lead at 13:10. San Diego retreated to the locker room for adjustments which proved immediately fruitful. Morgan scored 52 seconds into the third quarter, using the outside of his foot and great positioning to push along a Mitchell Cardenas entry pass for his 11th goal of the season and a 3-1 advantage.
The goals would come fast and furious from there. Escoto’s first of the match was another lovely longball, this one a more traditional volley forward over the head of the screened Empire keeper Brandon Gomez (9-of-17 saves) for a long-range goal and a 4-1 lead at 2:29. Morgan then rang both the far and near posts with a hard shot, but the third carom came out to Costa point-blank for another finish, his second goal of the night and a 5-1 edge at 7:22. Charlie Gonzalez netted at 10:29 from Escoto on a silky step-back move for 6-1.
After being shut out for eight straight quarters, team captain Kraig Chiles found the perfect opportunity for his 400th MASL point. On a free kick on the left angle from just outside the Empire crease, Chiles hesitated over the ball and pointed into a dead space, freezing the defender before perfectly rolling a pass to Drew Ruggles for a left-footed rocket into the net at 13:41 for a decisive 7-1 lead.
Escoto’s magical bicycle goal at 5:57 of the fourth quarter was San Diego’s seventh straight in the match, good for a dominant 8-1 lead. The Strykers did not get the memo that the match was over, pulled their keeper for a sixth attacker, and found four goals in rather quick succession. Marco Fabián, Moustapha Gueye, Bryce Watson and Mijatovic all scored in a span of four minutes and thirty seconds to draw the match much closer. A big save by Pardo on a set piece in the final four minutes reset control, and San Diego saw out their fourth road victory of the year.
The Sockers played once again without key midfielder Leonardo de Oliveira, who missed his third straight match with a leg injury, and also sat defensive captain Cesar Cerda (lower body), and two-way midfielder Felipé Gonzalez (lower body). San Diego will now need to monitor the condition of Morgan as well, who needed help to get off the field after a non-contact injury in the final three minutes.
The Sockers return home for their next match on Saturday, January 27 when they host the St. Louis Ambush on Alumni Night, the final time greats from the 1980s Sockers will run on the Pechanga Arena floor. The club is building the new Frontwave Arena in Oceanside, which it will move into next season. Tickets for Alumni Night are available by calling (866) 799-GOAL or visiting sdsockers.com.