Sockers Defense Dominates In Game One Win In Texas
MESQUITE, TX - Boris Pardo stopped all seven shots he faced and Kraig Chiles led a balanced attack with two goals as the San Diego Sockers opened their Ron Newman Cup three-peat defense with a 7-1 victory over the Mesquite Outlaws on Friday night at Mesquite Arena. The Sockers took a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three series, returning to San Diego for the second match on Sunday at 5:05pm, with a 15-minute Knockout Game to follow if needed.
Tavoy Morgan had two goals and Leonardo de Oliveira a goal and assist for San Diego, but the story was the league-leading Sockers defense. The only club to concede fewer than 100 goals in the regular season, the Sockers clamped down on the Outlaws on their home field, allowing only sixteen shots and blocking eight. Boris Pardo was 7-for-7 on saves in net, with the only goal conceded coming when Pardo was shown a blue card penalty for a tackle outside his keeper’s box. Backup Xavier Snaer-Williams entered to see David Ortiz score the only goal of the night for Mesquite.
San Diego won the second half 5-0, dominating in possession and chances while holding the Outlaws to five total shots. Morgan, Leo and Chiles all netted in the third quarter, with Chiles and Juan Manuel Rojo adding fourth quarter goals. The Sockers scored in the opening minute of both the third and fourth quarters, setting the dominant tone for the half.
Playing on the bumpiest field in the MASL, the ball was hopping and the score was stopped cold for much of the first quarter, as both clubs attempted to hold possession. San Diego had a couple of golden chances come up wanting early, as Juan Manuel Rojo missed a close-quarters 2-v-1 pass in front of the net, and later Kraig Chiles smashed the crossbar with a long shot.
The Sockers opened the scoring when Charlie Gonzalez dug a contested ball out of the left mid-wall in front of the penalty boxes, pushing Brandon Escoto up the field with a lead pass. Escoto had Tavoy Morgan running the right wing on support, and with a tiny yet clever head fake, Escoto got goalkeeper Eduardo “Pollo” Cortes to dive out of the way in anticipation of a pass. Brandon had an empty net to roll the ball into at 11:51 of the first quarter for a 1-0 lead.
In the second quarter, the Sockers worked patiently to find their second goal. Escoto led in Hiram “Pollo” Ruiz along the right mid-wall of the attacking zone, and Ruiz spotted Morgan posting up in the middle and fed him the ball with a defender on his back. Tavoy used two quick touches of the right foot with his back to net; the first to turn the defender’s hips, the second with the outside of the foot to push the ball into the goal for a 2-0 lead at 5:13.
San Diego was looking to take a shutout into halftime before a defensive error opened the door. Luis “Peewee” Ortega was ambushed by Mesquite’s Lucas Ramalho near the yellow line, giving up the ball for a 2-v-0 run on net. Pardo jumped out to challenge David Ortiz and tackled the midfielder for a clear blue card shootout penalty. With Xavier Snaer-Williams in net and Pardo in the penalty box, Ortiz took a sole-roll touch forward on his shootout attempt from the attacking line before calmly slotting in the goal for 2-1 at the 10:42 mark. The Sockers guarded their slim lead into the mid-match break.
The third quarter began with a clinical breakdown of the Mesquite defense by San Diego’s starting unit. Leo shook his defender and forced a risky save. A rebound was played through high midfield and Escoto to Charlie Gonzalez, who kept his head up on left wing and spotted Morgan working the crease. His well-threaded pass found Morgan’s right foot on the move, and Tavoy turned in motion to plant his second goal of the match at :56 for a 3-1 lead.
Morgan was dropped less than two minutes later on a blue card-worthy tackle, and did not return to the match, holding his back. The Sockers were awarded a power play but did not score, and saw the referees pull the blue card against them on what was perceived as a trip on Chiles from behind. San Diego head coach Phil Salvagio threw his challenge flag and was rewarded on video review, which clearly showed no foul at all.
While the match still appeared in doubt, a self-inflicted wound would open the floodgates against Mesquite. The Outlaws were whistled for too many men on the field, gifting San Diego a second power play in the third quarter. The Sockers would make quick work of it, as Escoto gave Leo a pass with room to work on right wing, and de Oliveira took one touch before smashing a half-volley into the net for a 4-1 lead at 6:38.
As the half wore on, the young Outlaws showed their playoff inexperience, and the Sockers capitalized. Chiles turned defender Rio Ramirez at the top of the arc for an open right-footed shot and calmly scored at 11:50 for a 5-1 advantage. Leo won an attempted breakout pass in the opening minute of the fourth quarter and drove forward on the left wall, spotting Chiles camped in the crease. His pass was deflected easily by the Sockers captain into the net at :57 for a 6-1 lead.
San Diego chipped home a goal against Mesquite’s six-attacker empty net formation with the “TJ Counter” duo of Tijuana natives Christian Gutierrez and Juan Manuel Rojo, as Gutierrez played a ball out of a scramble forward for Rojo’s first goal of the playoffs into the empty net at 7:28. On the other side of the floor, the Sockers defense shut down high-scoring forward Luiz Morales, who was held to five shots and zero points on the night.
The two clubs now fly from Texas to California on Saturday, in preparation for Sunday’s Match Two, scheduled for a 5:05pm kickoff from Pechanga Arena. In the case of an Outlaws victory, the two teams would square off in a 15-minute Knockout Game to follow the match. A San Diego win would put the Sockers back in the MASL semifinals for the fifth straight campaign in which a playoff was held (the 2019-20 season ended without a playoff due to the COVID pandemic).
Tickets are available for Sunday’s match by visiting sdsockers.com or calling (866) 799-GOAL.