Match Report // Sockers Stryke Down Empire 7-3
SAN DIEGO - Tested by travel and two young teams looking to make a statement in the MASL, the San Diego Sockers made a statement of their own: there’s still plenty of life left in these veteran legs.
Kraig Chiles and Cesar Cerda each netted a pair of goals and the San Diego Sockers held down the Empire Strykers 7-3 on Sunday night at Pechanga Arena, improving to 4-0 on the season. San Diego completed a grueling weekend sweep that began with a Saturday night 8-7 win in Dallas, and involved a day of travel heading into Sunday’s match. Angry with seven goals conceded on Saturday, the Sockers shut out Empire for the first, second, and fourth quarters.
“We had a bad defensive game yesterday, but we bounced back,” said Sockers head coach Phil Salvagio, “We’re tired. We have injuries. We landed three hours before the game. We showed we had some pride, prepared well, and redeemed ourselves from last night.”
The Sockers defense set a season-low in goals (3) and shots (20) while blocking eight shots, including a Charlie Gonzalez clearance off the line. Boris Pardo, wearing the dark-green throwback jersey he won consecutive MASL Goalkeeper of the Year awards in, stopped 9-of-12 shots in a classic solid performance. San Diego also scored the first short-handed goal of the season, on Cerda’s third-quarter counter-attack.
Showing their leg weariness from the day’s plane flight, San Diego slowed down the opening quarter, focusing on possession and defensive position. The match remained scoreless through 15 minutes.
Empire was shown consecutive blue cards early in the second quarter. Defender Bryce Watson was sent to the penalty box on a tripping call, and on the ensuing power play, Gabriel Costa’s shot was warded off by the hand of Strykers defender Stefan Mijatovic. When no whistle sounded, Salvagio threw a challenge flag, and the obvious handball was corrected on MASL Video Review. Kraig Chiles took the penalty kick for the deliberate handball and rifled a shot inside the left post for his fourth goal of the season at 4:52 of the second quarter for a 1-0 lead.
The Sockers levied 14 shots on net in the second quarter, and finally broke through with a goal in the run of play at 12:10, when Charlie Gonzalez stole a pass in the defensive zone, raced forward, then perfectly weighted a rolling pass between two defenders to the onrushing Cerda, who ripped a strong volley into the top net for his first goal of the season and a 2-0 lead.
Former Ontario star Leonardo de Oliveira put a capper on the half with the dazzling footwork he is famous for, working between three Empire players to steal a pass in front of the visiting bench, control the ball, and feed Chiles unmarked on the low-left wing for his rapacious strike with 12.7 seconds left before halftime, good for a stunning 3-0 lead. It was Chiles’ 398th career point in the MASL.
The Strykers (1-4) got the start to the third quarter they wanted on Justin Stinson’s goal at 1:07, but five seconds later the Sockers took the goal right back. Fouled in the offensive-right corner, Tavoy Morgan (two assists) quickly placed the ball down and surprised the Empire defense with an outlet to Leo, who smashed a shot inside the left post for a 4-1 lead at 1:12.
Liga MX veteran Marco Fabián scored a goal in his second straight match for Empire, first drawing a blue-card foul against San Diego, then finishing a rolling pass from Gerardo Jurado with a lethal right-footed half-volley at 7:54. Fabián has four points (two goals, two assists) in his first two MASL matches.
“It was a difficult game, San Diego is a good team,” said Fabián in Spanish after the match, “We’ll keep working, keep training, and soon we’ll find victory.”
Stinson’s second goal of the match at 9:56, coming moments after the Sockers saw Gabriel Costa shouldered to the turf without a whistle, drew Empire back into contention at 4-3. The Sockers answered with three straight goals to salt away the match, as Charlie Gonzalez, Cerda (short-handed), and Brandon Escoto each found the back of the net.
The Sockers won their fourteenth straight regular season match dating back to 2022-23 overall and their 24th straight regular season match at home. The club now gets the holiday off before returning to action on Saturday, December 30 when Tacoma comes to Pechanga Arena for a 7:05pm kickoff. Tickets are available by visiting sdsockers.com or calling (866) 799-GOAL.