Sockers Deliver Gritty Win In Home Opener
During 652 days away from home, the Sockers discovered a defensive stance that helped propel the club to the 2021 Ron Newman Cup. In their home opener, San Diego showed they indeed have learned how to keep their house in order.
Boris Pardo saved 12 of 13 shots and Brandon Escoto delivered three assists on offense, propelling the Sockers to a 4-1 win on Sunday night in the 2021-22 MASL home opener. Gerardo Jurado, Leonardo de Oliveira, Kraig Chiles, and Christian Gutierrez netted goals for San Diego (2-0), as the Sockers moved into an early first-place tie with the Ontario Fury with six standings points.
“We remembered what happened last week (in a 10-7 season-opening win at Tacoma); seven goals allowed is not a good sign,” said Pardo (2-0), “We made a point all week to defend. The guys looked solid, and really helped shut down some talented players (on Chihuahua).”
The night began with pomp and circumstance, as the Sockers received their 2021 Ron Newman Cup championship rings, and saw the fifteenth championship banner in franchise history dropped from the Eastern rafters at Pechanga Arena San Diego. The rings were handed out by owner/head coach Phil Salvagio and his father Frank, who appeared on the field with his son for the first time.
Inspired by their ceremony and the presence of home fans, the Sockers delivered a strong first quarter, building a 1-0 lead into the break. Aggressive ball pressure by Jamie Lovegrove off the bench forced the Savage into a defensive clearance, leading to the Sockers being awarded a free-kick at the top of the arc. San Diego converted, as Brandon Escoto’s roll-out on left wing was blasted into the upper corner of the goal by Gerardo Jurado for his second goal of the season. The Sockers led 1-0 at the 4:53 mark.
Dominant goalkeeping and solid possession allowed Chihuahua to control the second quarter. Ivan “Terry” Muñoz shined in net for the Savage, stopping 12 Sockers shots in the opening half, including a brilliant combo save midway through the frame, denying both Jamie Lovegrove and Christian Gutierrez at point-blank range. Muñoz’s leaping one-handed touch in the final five seconds denied Kraig Chiles a go-ahead goal.
The Savage tied the game with their top two attackers teaming up on an equalizer. Stealing a ball in offensive midfield, Enrique Cañez fed Hugo Puentes on the right wing, whose return pass found Cañez unmarked at the top of the arc. He whistled a volley into the upper-left corner of the net for his second goal of the season. The 1-1 tie at 5:58 held into halftime, with the Sockers outscoring the Savage 14-10.
The third quarter was a defensive battle, in which the Sockers developed consistent possession and pressure. San Diego regained the leg courtesy of Leonardo de Oliveira. Accepting a stretch pass from Guerrero Pino, de Oliveira raced in on the left wing before sending a ball toward the back post. Chihuahua defender Gerardo Alan Durant attempted to slide and block the pass but instead saw the ball deflect off his leg into the goal. Leo’s second goal of the season at 8:01 gave the Sockers a 2-1 lead, which they held into the fourth quarter.
After a game filled with physical play but only common fouls, the blue card was shown twice to the visitors in the fourth quarter. First, Mitchell Cardenas was pulled down from behind on a breakaway, leading to a blue card shootout attempt. Chiles’ shot was saved out of play by Ivan Muñoz, who was credited with 15 saves on the evening. In the ensuing power play, Escoto spotted Chiles with room on the left wing, and the Sockers’ all-time leading scorer stepped into a ferocious blast over Muñoz’s arms and into the upper netting.
“We got back to basics tonight, we wanted to allow fewer goals and give a win to our home fans,” said Chiles, “(Muñoz) made some good saves, played well, and kept Chihuahua in it.”
A last-minute blue card was converted into the final goal by Christian Gutierrez with just 4.7 seconds remaining in the contest. San Diego outshot the Savage 20-14, and went 2-for-2 on the power play. 1,647 took in the match at Pechanga Arena, the crowd muted by California’s indoor mask mandate delivered on Wednesday.
The Sockers receive the Christmas break off before returning to play on Sunday, January 2 against the Ontario Fury. All fans in attendance at “Retro Night” will see San Diego debut their 1980-84 throwback uniforms, and fans will receive a set of referee’s penalty cards (blue/yellow/red) courtesy of V Group. Tickets are available at sdsockers.com/tickets or via phone at (866) 799-GOAL.