Match Report // Outlaws Shock Sockers 6-4

MESQUITE, TX — Eduardo “Pollo” Cortes stopped 29-of-33 shots, a tour de force performance in net, as the Texas Outlaws beat the San Diego Sockers 6-4 on Saturday night at Mesquite Arena. The Outlaws lead the best-of-three series 1-0, and can end San Diego’s season with a win on Monday night at Pechanga Arena. The Sockers must win twice on Monday to keep their season alive, beating Texas in a full match to earn a 15-minute “Knockout Game”, which they also must win to advance.

The Sockers out-shot the Outlaws 53-32 but were consistently turned aside by Cortes, who made the first save over and over again. Never leading, San Diego trailed 2-0 after the first quarter, and got within one twice at 3-2 and 4-3, only to fade down the stretch and lose their third match in a row dating back to the regular season, the longest losing streak since 2021.      

The Outlaws took the lead quickly in the first quarter on a steal in the offensive zone by Jorge DeLeon, picking up the ball off the right wall and centering to a wide-open Vini Dantas, who had every corner to shoot at and found an open spot at 2:55 for a 1-0 lead. San Diego had a golden chance to equalize five minutes later, but Felipe Gonzalez was unable to control a pass in front of an empty net point-blank, tipping it off the post.

With San Diego unable to get a ball past the Outlaws defense, Texas had a chance late in the quarter to increase the lead. Vini Dantas emerged from the defensive zone in a two-on-one rush, but his crossing pass went into the corner. Sebastian Mendez centered back across the goal mouth to Dantas, tipped away from his waiting foot at the last moment by Brandon Escoto. The Sockers still could not clear the zone, as former Socker Andy Reyes collected the loose ball in traffic along the right boards, charged the corner, and laced a perfect shot into the upper netting at 11:37 for a 2-0 Texas lead. The Outlaws put on more heavy pressure in the final two minutes, and Kraig Chiles missed a wide-open shot on the far post as a disappointing first frame ended with Texas up by two. 

The second quarter seemed to get off to a good start for San Diego, as Texas was whistled for defensive clearance, giving the Sockers a free kick from the top of the arc. Chiles slid a pass on the right wing to Ruggles, who bent a left-footed shot through Cortes and the near post at 1:10, narrowing the score to 2-1. However, it took just seventeen seconds for Texas to reclaim the goal, as a ball played into the San Diego zone could not be corralled, pinballing through Brendan Lee to David Ortiz on the left post, who tapped in at 1:27 to make it 3-1 Outlaws. 

Texas earned a power play with 7:21 remaining in the half when Luiz Morales was taken down hard in a scrum for a loose ball. San Diego killed the penalty, and when Guerrero Pino made a deft steal and pass forward, Felipe Gonzalez found himself coming in on a breakaway against Cortes. He took two touches before getting his laces through a full volley that Cortes blocked with the side of his head. The keeper was downsprawled, took an on-field vision test, and then decided to stay in the match.

After using a set piece to get their first goal, the Sockers again turned to special teams to pull back their second. Texas’ Uzi Tayou was shown a blue card for contact above the shoulders on San Diego’s Gabriel Costa. On the ensuing power play, Leonardo de Oliveira passed out of the low-right corner, feeding Charlie Gonzalez, who ran on the pass and slammed it past Cortes at 12:16, narrowing the score to 3-2. Both keepers shined late in the quarter, as Cortes managed to stay with an Escoto shot that went through two pairs of legs on the way to the net, and Pardo warded off a quick one-on-one with David Ortiz, who was fed the ball by Dantas about eight feet from net. The clubs went to their locker rooms with Texas ahead 3-2. 

San Diego came out with determination to take control of the match to start the third quarter, getting the first four shots of the half. When Morgan was taken down hard from behind by David Ortiz, the Sockers earned their second power play of the night, albeit without Tavoy, who was looked at by athletic trainer Paul Savage during the man advantage. The Sockers generated a couple of decent shots but no pure chances, save a corner kick right as the power play expired. The shot chance didn’t materialize, and a loose ball was kicked out to Texas’ Darren Mitchell, who had a breakaway on goal. Mitchell tucked his shot between Pardo and the near post at 6:33 for a deflating score, pushing the home team ahead 4-2. 

The Sockers were repeatedly stymied by Cortes as the third quarter wore on, including a point-blank save in the final seconds. Out-shooting the Outlaws 16-3 in the third period, San Diego nonetheless failed to put a single ball past the Texas keeper, maintaining the lead at two goals. 

A nervy fourth quarter began, and the Sockers continued to pepper the Texas net. Cortes warded off chance after chance, and then the Outlaws hunted for a knockout punch. A two-on-one counterattack was well played, setting up Ortiz for an open net, but Pardo went post-to-post to deny the goal with a beautiful save. On the ensuing scramble, the ball came out to Brandon Escoto, who held off a defender all the way down the field, giving the ball to Chiles at the last second for a tap-in and a 4-3 score at 6:42. 

It seemed as if the Sockers had at last wrested momentum from the home team, but once again, San Diego conceded as quickly as they scored. Former Socker Emmanuel Aguirre was given far too much space on the right wall after winning a ball at midfield, and danced in on net, given a clear lane to lace a ball between Pardo and the near post once again, a seeming back-breaker of an answer at 7:17 for the 5-3 advantage. 

The Sockers kept the pressure on the Texas net, lobbing a match-high 18 shots on net in the fourth quarter, but could not break the Outlaws' defense. San Diego went to a six attackers formation with four minutes left in the match, and once again immediately conceded an empty-net goal. David Ortiz struck from long range at 11:43, just 20 seconds after the Sockers pulled their keeper, and put Texas ahead 6-3. Mitchell Cardenas scored for San Diego with six seconds remaining to set the final margin. 

San Diego must now return home on Monday night and win not once, but twice. They must first 

turn the tables on Texas and earn a win in Match Two to force a Knockout Game, a 15-minute contest in which they must also prevail. Anything else will lead to the first playoff series win in Outlaws history, and the first opening-round knockout for the Sockers since 2014-15. Tickets for Monday’s playoff action start at $10 and can be purchased at or by phone at (866) 799-GOAL.