New-Look Express Surprise Sockers With 7-6 Win

Manuel Rojo scored a hat trick against his former team, and Adrian Gutierrez added a goal and two assists, as the Cal Express (2-0) made MASL and franchise history with a 7-6 win over the San Diego Sockers in the home and season opener for San Diego. It was the first-ever win for the Express in San Diego, and the Sockers (0-1) dropped their season opener for the first time since 2013-14.

“They were good, and we took (Cal) too easy,” said head coach Phil Salvagio after the final result, “We have been practicing poorly, and not one player played well for us tonight. It was very disappointing.”

A see-saw match saw the Sockers play from behind for much of the affair, trailing the Express by scores of 2-1, 3-2, 4-3 and 5-4. Rojo’s second goal of the match, a rebound ripped inside the left post past keeper Boris Pardo, gave Cal the first multi-goal lead for either team at 6-4 in the fourth quarter. Brandon Escoto’s first goal of the year at 7:36 of the fourth drew San Diego within one, but a perfect counter-attack less than three minutes later saw Adrian Gutierrez (goal, two assists) and Rojo running unmarked in the San Diego defensive third. Rojo slammed home the cross pass for his hat trick goal at 10:19 to put the match officially out of reach.

Kraig Chiles, who hit the post three times in the fourth quarter, scored the final goal of the match at 13:23 to rekindle hopes of a San Diego comeback, but after midfielder Brian Farber was shown a blue card with 1:15 remaining for a challenge against Cal keeper Edgar Martinez, the Express were able to hold on for the win.

“They had a lot of energy, they were sharper than us in certain moments, and we were flat,” said Chiles after the match, “I think we were casual in our approach to the game, but hopefully it’s a wake-up call.

”The Sockers’ only lead of the night came 5:42 into the match, as Martinez found himself catching a forward pass at the edge of his crease, and threw the ball off-balance before he stumbled out of his area for a penalty. Farber was waiting at the top of the crease and left-footed home the first goal of the 2019-20 season.

Quickly, however, it would become apparent that these visitors were not going to roll over. Rojo ran past three defenders and across three lines for a brilliant solo goal, finishing right-footed past Pardo to knot the match at 1-1 at 11:22. Just seventeen seconds later, another defensive breakdown left Gerardo Jurado unmarked for an open rebound goal of an Arturo Pulido wall pass for his first of two goals on the night, and a 2-1 Cal lead.

Hiram “Pollo” Ruiz found a loose ball at the edge of the Cal crease to open the second quarter, slotting his first of the season past Martinez into the lower-left corner of the net for a 2-2 tie 32 seconds into the second quarter. However, Gutierrez answered on a 2-on-1 counter-attack with Ivan Campos just 55 seconds later to regain the lead 3-2. The ping pong battle continued, with Luis “Peewee” Ortega and Jurado exchanging goals in the quarter. Cal led 4-3 at halftime.

The Sockers knotted the score 4-4 in the third quarter on a 3-on-1 counter-attack, with Cesar Cerda (two assists) smoothly setting up newcomer Emmanuel Aguirre for his first goal as a Socker at 6:51 of the quarter. A blue card later in the frame on Chiles was cashed in by the visitors to regain the lead. After a wide shot caromed under the clearance attempt of Luis Piffer and out to right angle, Gutierrez tracked it down and rifled a pass back into the middle, redirected with force by Campos into the back of the net for a 5-4 lead after 45 minutes.

With pressure and frustration mounting, the Sockers saw their captain hit the right post, left post and top frame in the closing minutes. However, the result was always in the grasp of the young visitors, who saw their rookie head coach Edgar “Chebo” Martinez improve to 2-0 on the season.

After the match, the 35-year-old veteran Chiles was philosophical about being under .500 for the first time in six years.“Honestly, it’s what was needed. I don’t care if we go 20-0 or 23-1, we need to get to the playoffs and we have to make a statement there. People are already thinking we’re in a certain position, and we’re not there yet. Hopefully this gets us back to the training field.”

The last time the Sockers were below .500, the Dallas Sidekicks came to San Diego for a 5-3 win in the 2013-14 season opener. San Diego dropped their next match that season to Monterrey to fall to 0-2 before ripping off 13 wins in 14 results, finishing with a 13-3 record before eventually losing to Las Vegas in the playoffs.

This season’s club will hit the road for a November 30 showdown against the Tacoma Stars in the Pacific Northwest, before returning home on December 13 against the rival Ontario Fury.