San Diego Wins 14th Straight By Downing Blast

Felipe Gonzalez scored a pair of goals, Leonardo de Oliveira a goal and two assists, and Kraig Chiles added a goal and assist, as the San Diego Sockers won their fourteenth straight match in the Major Arena Soccer League, a 9-6 decision over the Baltimore Blast on Saturday night at SECU Arena, on the campus of Towson University. 

The Sockers (17-0-1, 48 points) fell behind 5-3 in the third quarter before rolling off four straight goals, including the eventual game-winner from Christian Gutierrez, a straightaway smash off de Oliveira’s second assist of the night, a magical behind-the-back no-look backheel pass into the crease. “Leo” set a new career-high with his 25th and 26th assists of the season, the leading total in the MASL.

Brandon Escoto and Juan Manuel Rojo finished the fourth quarter scoring for the Sockers, improving San Diego’s road record to 9-0 on the season. The Blast (10-7, 31 points) fell to 0-5 against top-8 teams in the league, while holding their position as the top wild card team. 

San Diego got the offense rolling in the game’s third minute, as Felipe Gonzalez and Leonardo de Oliveira combined on some pretty infield 1-2 action. Felipe gave Leo the ball outside the attacking zone and ran through the crease to the far post, as Leo attacked a double team on the dribble. Leo’s shot was kicked away by Vanzela, but the rebound went to Felipe, who sent the ball back on frame. The shot ricocheted off the post, then Baltimore defender Jereme Raley’s leg, for the first goal of the match at 2:43.

The Blast evened the score at 13:39 on Lucas Roque’s header goal, off a wall pass from Ibrahima Keita, but the Sockers were quick to answer. Mitchell Cardenas’ diagonal entry pass from the left wall in midfield curved to the toe of Alan Garcia, who centered it first time out of the air to Tavoy Morgan’s toe, and first time to the goal at 13:53, just fourteen seconds later. Tavoy’s 27th of the season made the score 2-1 San Diego. 

In the waning seconds of the first quarter, Brandon Escoto held the ball through double-team pressure in the left corner and worked it back to Cesar Cerda on the left-wing. Cerda squared a pass across the zone that Cardenas ran on for a full volley. His dipping shot arced between two defenders and Vanzela for a crushing goal at 14:57, good for a 3-1 advantage.

The Blast slowed things down in a highly tactical second quarter, which saw the intensity and physicality increase, as well as the chirping on the floor. Four yellow cards were shown, two to each side, and the clubs also tangled as they left the floor at halftime on the way to their respective locker rooms. 

The only goal came on a right-wall offensive zone restart for the Blast. Jonatas Melo sent the ball into the crease, where former Socker Nelson Santana was able to get a touch on it for a point-blank goal at 12:52. The score was 3-2 Sockers after 30 minutes of play, ending a string of twelve straight quarters in which San Diego had scored at least one goal.

The third quarter was all Baltimore to start, taking advantage of the multiple quick restarts afforded by the smallest field in league history. Nelson Santana knocked in a Tony Donatelli shot-pass to the back post at 1:49 for his second straight goal and a 3-3 tie. Ibrahima “Kalou” Keita and Lucas Roque similarly found the end of centering passes at the 5:00 and 7:22 marks, and the Sockers found themselves down 5-3, their first time trailing by multiple goals since January 26 against Ontario. 

The comeback began with a top-arc set piece, and Kraig Chiles slotting a pass through the dummy of Brandon Escoto and to the waiting boot of Leo, who knocked in his 11th goal of the season at 8:42, drawing the scoreline back to 5-4. Felipe Gonzalez and Tavoy Morgan combined on a pinball goal at 13:44 to even the score, as Morgan knocked the ball off the wall to Felipe, whose shot hit the post, defender, and then the back of the net for his second such goal of the night, and sixth of the season. The match was tied 5-5.

Before the quarter was out, the Sockers increased the pressure and were rewarded with the lead. Moments after Leo’s shot was kicked away by Vanzela, the ball went back to Cardenas, who spotted Chiles unmarked on the left elbow. Chiles turned on Cardenas’ entry pass as it came to him, blasting the ball past Vanzela for his 21st goal of the year, a furious fist pump, and a 6-5 lead at 14:35. Chiles netted his eight straight multi-point match, with (14-10=24) points in the surge.

The Sockers have no time to celebrate, loading up immediately for a six-hour drive to upstate New York, where Utica City FC awaits. With Daylight Savings Time kicking in overnight, there will be only 19 hours between kickoffs, as the two clubs will square off at 11:00am Pacific Time. The action is available to watch for free on MASL TV on YouTube.