Sockers Drop Opener 5-3 In Kansas City
INDEPENDENCE, MO — The San Diego Sockers dropped a 5-3 decision to the Kansas City Comets in their 2021 Major Arena Soccer League season opener on Friday night at the Cable Dahmer Arena in Independence, Missouri. Adam James and Nick McDonald each scored twice for the Comets (2-4).
Cesar Cerda, Felipe Gonzalez, and Brandon Escoto netted goals for the Sockers (0-1), who will travel to Dallas for a 1pm matinee on Sunday looking for their first win of the season.
“We made a lot of mistakes,” said head coach Phil Salvagio of the outing, “A lot of individual play, and not playing as a group. For such an experienced team, we made poor decisions.”
The Sockers battled through a mostly scoreless first period to notch their only lead of the match, as Cesar Cerda handled a second chance pass from Felipe Gonzalez on left wing attacking to smash home his first goal of the season at 12:45 for a 1-0 lead.
Kansas City tied the score in the opening minute of the second quarter with a flurry of attack around the San Diego net. While keeper Boris Pardo (11/15 saves, 0-1) made two consecutive stops at short range, veteran John Sosa dug out a loose ball in traffic on the goal wall and found James for a point-blank roof shot, and a 1-1 tie at :48 of the second quarter.
The Sockers were granted a power play in the second quarter when KC’s Ramone Palmer was shown a blue card for high contact, and nearly regained the lead, only to have Gordy Gurson’s low angle shot blocked away by the Comets’ keeper Nicolau Neto, who was wrong-footed and yet able to stick out his right toe to deny the goal. The match was tied 1-1 at the half.
While the Comets were rocked by COVID protocol news just hours before kickoff, their extra six weeks of competitive game play was evident in the second half, as Kansas City utilized high pressure and long runs to stretch out the Sockers defense and challenge the club’s match fitness. Caught deep in their own attack zone early in the third quarter, San Diego saw Palmer burst out up the middle on counter-attack. While Pardo parried away the original shot, the Comets were able to pounce on the rebound in the left corner, with Kevin Ellis floating a cross to the back post, where Nick McDonald put Kansas City ahead 2-1 with 4:19 elapsed.
Less than three minutes later, San Diego got caught deep in their own zone, and when Cerda was pressured from behind at the top of the arc, Kyle McLagan was able to toe-poke a loose ball to James, who had Pardo dead to rights from point blank range for his second goal of the night, and a 3-1 lead at the 8:01 mark. Kansas City held their two-goal advantage into the fourth quarter.
The match may have turned on special teams early in the fourth quarter. Already severely undermanned, Kansas City saw defender Ze Ramos waved off with a red card after off-the-ball headbutt foul. The Sockers saw Kraig Chiles hit the inside of the right post on the ensuing power play, and were denied another chance at goal on a great save by Neto, but never scored, posting a 0-for-2 mark on the man advantage.
During the power play, Chiles, the Sockers captain and all-time leading scorer, took a lower body injury and did not return to the game.
San Diego narrowed the gap on a lovely 1-2-3 interior passing play between Slavisa Ubiparipovic, Leonardo de Oliveira, and Felipe Gonzalez, crossing the face of the goal twice before an open Gonzalez smashed in his first goal of the season, making it a 3-2 score 8:53 into the fourth quarter.
Following a KC timeout, the Comets executed their bench plan to perfection to net the eventual game-winner. Off the center-faceoff, forward Rian Marquez passed back to keeper and ran forward, quickly finding himself on the receiving end of a 2-on-1 left wing pass. Marquez turned against Pardo and popped the game-winning goal home low and between the legs, his fifth of the season. Just nine seconds after San Diego had scored, Kansas City restored a 4-2 advantage.
The Sockers went to a sixth attacker with under four minutes to play, but Comets pressure quickly won the ball, leading to McDonald’s second score of the night from Palmer, and a 5-2 lead at 11:52. Still on six attackers, San Diego’s Brandon Escoto slotted a low shot inside far post from the right corner at 12:13 on a pin-down pass from Marcio Leite to close out the scoring, his first goal of the season.
While the Comets were rocked by COVID protocol news just hours before kickoff--losing eight players to testing, including their head coach Leo Gibson--their extra six weeks of competitive game play was evident in the second half, as Kansas City utilized high pressure and long runs to stretch out the Sockers defense and challenge the club’s match fitness.
San Diego now travels to the Allen Event Center in Texas to battle the Dallas Sidekicks (0-3), a 1pm kickoff from the Lone Star State on Sunday afternoon. All MASL matches during the COVID-impacted 2021 season are aired exclusively on MASL Facebook PPV.