San Diego Mounts Furious Comeback To Win 6-3
Trailing 3-0 to the rival Ontario Fury five minutes into the third quarter, the San Diego Sockers were down, but not out.
The Sockers—presented by Kaiser Permanente San Diego—rolled off six unanswered goals in the second half, coming from behind to beat the Fury 6-3 Sunday night at Pechanga Arena San Diego. Tavoy Morgan netted twice for the Sockers, and Juan Carlos “Charlie” Gonzalez had the go-ahead goal in the fourth quarter, as well as the assist to Brandon Escoto that clinched things. Club captain Kraig Chiles led the team in points on the night, gathering a goal and two assists.
The offensive burst was significant, but it’s what happened on the other end of the field that deserves further mention. Flying into San Diego from Texas to meet his teammates in the locker room before the match on a ten-day contract, goalkeeper Eduardo “Pollo” Cortes stopped 12 of 15 chances, earning a win in place of Boris Pardo, who missed the match due to health and safety protocols.
“I know a few of these guys (from tournaments), but even if I don’t know them, my mindset is to come in and get the win,” said Cortes, “This is the second time I’ve been to San Diego in my life, and it’s been good to me so far.”
Behind five blocked shots from defender Guerrero Pino and two more (including a point-blank save off the line) from Mitchell Cardenas, the Sockers shut out four-time MASL MVP Franck Tayou, who had netted nine goals in his first three matches. Tayou remains three points away from 400 in his MASL career.
“We got good matchups with Pino and Mitchell (against Tayou), they were battling,” said head coach Phil Salvagio. With a wink and a smile, he added, “They love each other!”
A highly physical match saw the Fury (2-2) commit 20 fouls, including a pair of fourth-quarter blue cards, to San Diego’s ten fouls committed. Both teams bunkered in for a defensive affair with low-pressure approaches, and the match was scoreless after fifteen minutes.
“We knew it was gonna be physical,” said Salvagio, “When you have so many emotions, two great teams playing each other, you’re going to get that. Emotions run high and low in the indoor game.”
Ontario began the second quarter with 22 seconds of power-play time, earned on a slide tackle blue card from the Sockers’ Christian Gutierrez. The Fury needed just 16 of those seconds to open the scoring, as Jesus Pacheco ripped a half-volley into the upper-left corner of the net, shooting from a tight angle deep in the right corner. The lone goal and 1-0 lead held up to halftime, with San Diego being out-shot 12-10.
The Fury pushed their lead out to 3-0 with a pair of quick third-quarter goals. First, Justin Stinson took advantage of a turnover deep in the Sockers defensive zone, using a silky move to free himself from Brandon Escoto before beating Cortes to the far post for his fourth goal of the season, and a 2-0 lead at 3:54. Moments later, sustained possession by Ontario led to a ball pushed out to defender Juan Topete, who launched from behind the red line. The ball glanced off Cortes’ mitt and into the right-side netting at 5:14 to make it 3-0 Fury.
The San Diego comeback began with some fantastic footwork from Leonardo de Oliveira. Last year’s Finals MVP, “Leo” broke down defender Uzi Tayou with a series of four fakes, freeing a left-footed shot that beat Toth inside the far post for his third goal of the season, clawing back a goal for the Sockers quickly at 6:07.
Two minutes later, San Diego turned up the defensive pressure, pressing the Fury high in their defensive zone. Cardenas tapped the ball loose to Morgan, who was in free on Toth, curving a right-footed shot around him at 8:23 to make it a 3-2 score. Morgan celebrated his first home Sockers goal with a dance alongside de Oliveira.
The match was drawn even in the final minute of the third quarter, when Felipe Gonzalez crashed in from his defender position along the left wall, spotting Kraig Chiles alone at the right elbow of the crease. The pass found Chiles in time for a near-post goal, sneaking the ball past Toth at 14:00 exactly to knot the score at 3-3.
The fourth quarter began with another chance off of a turnover, as Morgan found himself alone in on goal against Toth, dragged down by Uzi Tayou with a bearhug from behind. The Sockers were awarded a shootout. Brandon Escoto was the pre-match choice to take the shootout, but he deferred to Charlie Gonzalez, facing the team he had played for from 2013-21 for the first time. Charlie’s right-footed shot was off the post, but he found the rebound with his Ieft foot and finished it, taking a hard hit from behind as he did so. Charlie got up and tugged his jersey crest to remind Ontario of the team he is playing for now.
“I gotta represent whatever team I’m playing for,” said Gonzalez, who has three goals and three assists in two matches, “It was really physical, tactical, and a lot of hits, but that’s what was expected. You have to be the team that’s the smartest.”
Gonzalez extended the lead with an instinctive play. Receiving a loose ball at pace in the crease, Charlie turned on net but spotted fellow midfielder Brandon Escoto crashing the back post. Gonzalez made the pass and Escoto slammed home his third goal of the year at 9:45, pushing the lead to 5-3.
The Fury went to six attackers with 4:20 remaining, but were unable to find the net, with Cortes making a point-blank stop of Franck Tayou. A blue card to Ontario’s Robert Palmer with 2:06 remaining was cashed in by Morgan, who scored from his own end of the field at 13:51 as the Fury pulled their keeper once again.
San Diego was out-shot by the Fury 30-22, but came up with a season-high 15 blocked shots. Cortes appreciated the support from his newly-met teammates, both on and off the floor.
“From the beginning of the process, coming here and everything, this is the most professional organization in the MASL that I’ve been to. Everyone was friendly, I knew the traditions of winning here, and we came out together as a team and won.”
The victory pushes the Sockers three points ahead of Ontario in the MASL West Division. However, two more contests remain over the next two Sundays, and three more between the sides before the month is out.
Phil Salvagio had a simple message, for the intensity and physicality: “It’s only going to get worse.”
San Diego and Ontario return on the same field for a rematch on Sunday, January 9 at 5pm. The match will feature the return of the Sockers’ Celebrity/Media Halftime Game. Tickets are available by visiting sdsockers.com/tickets or calling (866) 799-GOAL.