Match Report // The Empire Falls To San Diego 8-4

Felipe Gonzalez had a hat trick with an assist and Brandon Escoto added two goals and two assists as the San Diego Sockers rolled past the Empire Strykers 8-4 Friday night at Pechanga Arena. The Sockers (15-3, 43 points) scored four goals in the third quarter to build out an insurmountable lead, improving to 4-0 on the season against the Strykers. 

“A good professional win,” said team captain Kraig Chiles, who added his 19th goal of the season, “We needed to get back on the right track and be defensively sound. We made a couple of individual mistakes in the first half but did a good job to focus on team defense in the second half.”

Playing in front of an enthusiastic Star Wars Night crowd of 1,682, the Sockers took a 3-1 first-quarter lead on goals by Escoto, Chiles, and Felipe Gonzalez. Empire (3-14-1, 9 points) saw their star midfielder Marco Fabián net twice in the second quarter, helping the Strykers to trail by only one goal at the half, 4-3. The Sockers aided the Empire effort with a pair of first-half own goals. Cesar Cerda set the tone for a different second half when he scored 33 seconds into the third quarter on an assist by Tavoy Morgan, who had a career-high four assists on his 29th birthday. 

“A much better second half,” said head coach Phil Salvagio, “We only allowed one goal in the half, that’s what we’re looking for, only four goals allowed in the match. It was such a defeating loss last week (a 9-4 loss to Kansas City at home). We had to get better, and today was a good start.”

Escoto netted his brace on Morgan’s second assist of the quarter at 6:18 for a 6-3 lead, before Adam James answered for Empire. The end of the third belonged to Felipe Gonzalez, who scored twice in a minute at 13:22 and 14:20 of the quarter to salt the match away. 

“We started off on the right foot, came out flying,” said Felipe, “We wanted to get the momentum going early for us, and I was able to take the chances I got and put the ball on target.”

The Sockers were buoyed by the local soccer supporter community, who banded together to create a vibrant atmosphere behind the Western goal. Members of Los Brewjos del 78, Chavos Frontera Ultras, Locals SG, San Diego Riptides, and the 18th Battalion kept the drums, flags, and songs going all sixty minutes. 

“We have to thank the supporters, that was the kind of energy we want to feel every match,” said Chiles, “I think they helped keep our momentum strong to put the match away in the second half.” 

San Diego extended their lead in the Western Division to 14 points over the second-place Chihuahua Savage, although the defending Ron Newman Cup champions has three matches in hand on the Sockers. The two sides will meet on Sunday at Pechanga Arena, with the Savage looking for a three-match sweep on the season. 

“It’s going to be a good match,” said Chiles, “We’re looking forward to it, and hoping for a different result from the last couple of meetings.”

The showdown is set for Sunday at 5:05pm on Military Night when Chihuahua will look for their third straight win at Pechanga Arena. The Savage eliminated San Diego from the playoffs last season in the Western Conference Final Knockout Game, winning 1-0 in extra time, then beat the Sockers 5-1 on January 14 in San Diego. Fans will receive a Sockers camouflage hat with their ticket on Sunday, with doors opening at 4:00pm. Tickets are available by visiting, calling (866) 799-GOAL, or patronizing the Pechanga Arena box office on match day.