Pardo's Play Lifts Sockers To Bounce-Back Win
On the heels of their worst performance in years, the Sockers found their backs against the wall on Saturday night in Tacoma. Luckily, the wall had a name, and it was Boris Pardo.
San Diego’s all-MASL goalkeeper stopped six-of-six shots in the fourth quarter including a key breakaway, and contributed an assist on offense, as the Sockers outlasted the Stars 6-3 at accesso ShoWare Center in Kent, Washington. San Diego bounced back from a 10-4 loss on Wednesday night in Ontario, moving back into first place in the MASL Western Conference.
Brandon Escoto, Tavoy Morgan, Charlie Gonzalez and Brian Farber all netted goals as San Diego (11-1, 32 points) built a 4-1 lead before hanging on for dear life in a second half that saw Tacoma press for a potential tie. Christian Gutierrez scored twice into an empty net in the final two minutes to seal the result.
The Sockers out-shot the Stars 27-23 and controlled the first half, but a lack of touch in the final third allowed the score-line to stay tantalizingly close. Goals by Roman Ramirez and Jamael Cox in the third quarter drew Tacoma within one before San Diego’s defense and goalkeeper held firm down the stretch.
San Diego was looking to regroup after a sluggish start to the road trip on Wednesday. On this night it would be the Sockers striking first, as a long pass over-the-top found a streaking Felipe Gonzalez down the middle of the field crashing in on goal. Tacoma’s Micheal Ramos was forced to take down Felipe, and the Sockers were awarded a penalty kick. Brandon Escoto was given the honor, and used the pace of his left-footed volley to beat Waltman, who guessed right on his dive but could not stop Escoto’s eighth goal of the season. The Sockers had a quick 1-0 lead at 2:13.
San Diego has been waiting for Tavoy Morgan to return to form, and the target provided a perfect example of his top-shelf play to double the lead. On a keeper distribution by Pardo, Morgan first held off his defender, then allowed the ball to drop inside the attacking line, turning his man to come in on goal. Morgan settled and pivoted to his right foot for a wicked volley good for his 13th goal of the year and a 2-0 lead at 10:12. The Sockers carried their two-goal advantage into the corner break.
Tacoma got on the board thanks to a one-on-one defensive battle gone awry. Defender Guerrero Pino attempted to battle the Stars’ Tyler John for the ball along the right wall, but the ball caromed past Pino, and John was in clean on goal. He beat Pardo to the near post for the score, narrowing the lead to 2-1 at 2:41 of the second quarter.
Brain Farber returned to the Sockers’ lineup after being held out on a coaches’ decision on Wednesday, and for the third time in three starts, he found his way onto the scoreboard with a classic Farber hustle goal. Crashing in on a Tacoma restart from deep in their zone, Farber anticipated the pass and jumped up on a steal with Waltman outside his net anticipating a breakout pass. Farber smashed the ball into empty net for his fourth goal and a 3-1 lead at 7:31.
As the first half wound down, Sockers head coach Phil Salvagio used his coach’s challenge to good effect. Spotting a handball from the bench, Salvagio threw his challenge flag with 3:36 remaining. Video review spotted a handball on Tacoma’s Adam West, leading to a San Diego power play. On the man advantage, the Sockers shared the ball selflessly, with Leo setting up Tavoy in the crease, only for Morgan to keep the ball rolling with a one-touch pass to the back post. Charlie Gonzalez was waiting to roof his 11th goal of the season at 12:38. The Sockers led 4-1 at halftime.
The third quarter saw the Sockers with multiple chances to extend their lead, including a gift power play when Tacoma was caught with too many men on the floor. However, San Diego could not generate a fifth goal, with Waltman picking up five quick saves, and the match remained 4-1 into the closing minutes of the frame. Suddenly, momentum shifted on a Juan Manuel Rojo blue card for contact above the shoulder. The Stars converted their power play almost immediately, with Roman “Chiva” Ramirez weaving through traffic for a wicked, rising shot into the top netting at 11:34, narrowing the lead to 4-2.
As the quarter reached the final minute, an unfortunate bounce went to the player the Sockers would have least preferred to see it. On a blind entry into the crease, the ball bounced off the leg of San Diego defender Mitchell Cardenas, finding the foot of Nick Perera. With his back to the net, Perera calmly squared a pass to his left, where Jamael Cox ran on it for a one-time goal at 14:13. Just like that, the score-line was down to 4-3 San Diego, and the fourth quarter threatened to be filled with nerves.
Tacoma threatened to score on a counter-attack two minutes into the fourth quarter, with Perera sending in Cox on the right wing. Pardo came out of the crease to make a clutch 1-v-1 save with his hip, initially called a handball by the referee but corrected upon official’s review.
With nine minutes left in the quarter, the Sockers attacked on the right wing. Luis “Peewee” Ortega’s cross into the middle deflected and pinballed to Morgan, whose shot appeared to inch past the goal line before being swept up by Waltman. However, video review could not produce a convincing enough angle to reverse the on-field call of no goal, and the match remained at 4-3.
Pardo made saves on Adam West, Philip Lund, Ramos, and Ramirez down the stretch, and with under two minutes left on the clock, the Stars were forced to go to a sixth attacker. Sockers defense and Christian Gutierrez took it from there. On consecutive possessions, Cesar Cerda wedged the ball loose and got it through traffic to Gutierrez at midfield, who had his long-range sights properly aimed for a pair of empty net goals at 13:47 and 14:21.
With Chihuahua losing 6-5 earlier in the night in Mesquite, the Sockers returned to first place in the West by two points, and San Diego still holds a match in hand over the second-place Savage. The Sockers continue their month-long road trip with two matches in Texas next week, traveling to take on the Dallas Sidekicks on Thursday, and the Mesquite Outlaws on Saturday.