Sockers Extend Division Lead With 4-2 Victory
Leonardo de Oliveira scored a goal and assist against his former team, and Brandon Escoto added his 15th goal of the season in a 4-2 San Diego Sockers win over the Ontario Fury at Citizens Business Bank Arena. Sockers goalie Boris Pardo was credited with 17 saves, including eight in the fourth quarter as the Fury rallied from a 3-0 deficit to draw within one before an empty net goal by Guerrero Pino sealed the victory.
“Ontario’s a very good team and Chris (Toth) is an incredible goalkeeper, so we know it’s going to be a low scoring game,” said Pardo, who leads the MASL with 11 wins, “We know we have to be disciplined defensively, and we know what we can do on attack.”
The Sockers (11-1) reached the halfway point of the MASL season with nine straight wins, a 6-0 road record and four wins in as many tries against their Southern California rivals the Fury, but the win on Thursday night came with a potential scare. Team captain Kraig Chiles was helped off the field with 1:50 remaining in the third quarter with a lower body injury, and taken to the locker room for further attention. Chiles, who was held scoreless for the first time this season, returned to the bench in the fourth quarter but did not see the field again. There was optimism in the locker room after the match that Chiles had avoided serious injury, and would be listed as day-to-day with a lower body injury,
Former US Soccer captain Landon Donovan took in the game from the San Diego bench, but did not make his Major Arena Soccer League (MASL) debut. Donovan is expected to play in the Sockers’ February 15 match at home against the Tacoma Stars.
Playing their first match since a 12-4 home win over the Turlock Express on January 20, the Sockers worked to find their legs during a quiet opening ten minutes, with few scoring chances for either side. After Ontario’s Debray Hollimon was called for a boarding penalty with 3:47 remaining in the frame, the Sockers called upon a power play unit which had been drilled over the break relentlessly after converting on only 6-of-29 attempts coming into action (21%).
Sockers forward Leonardo de Oliveira paid quick dividends in the second minute of the power play. Accepting an entry pass from Hiram “Pollo” Ruiz, the former Fury striker turned to his right foot and easily crushed a goal into the upper left corner of the net, his fifth of the year and good for a 1-0 San Diego lead at 12:23 of the first quarter. Leo, acquired in the offseason along with Juan Gonzalez from Ontario in exchange for goalkeeper Chris Toth and forward Andrew Lorei, extended his point streak to five games.
A scoreless second period saw the Fury (7-8) step up the pressure, with Boris Pardo forced into four saves. Annibal Echeverria’s bid from the low right wing was ticketed for the net with 8:35 remaining in the half, only to see Sockers defender Guerrero Pino in position to kick the ball off the line. The Sockers generated a 3-on-2 break in the closing minutes of the quarter, but Felipe Gonzalez’s open bid from the middle of the arc sailed over the frame. The score remained 1-0 San Diego after 30 minutes.
The Sockers extended their lead early in the third quarter when Leo this time showed off his power, speed, and touch. Winning a ball along the right wall, de Oliveira powered his way down the wall and created a 2-on-1 with Brandon Escoto. Leo’s cross pass sent Escoto in for a tap-in and his 15th goal of the season. The 2-0 lead at 2:22 extended Escoto’s goals streak to four consecutive games.
Hard work and high pressure generated a 3-0 lead at 6:08 of the third for San Diego. After the Sockers won the ball in the offensive zone, Christian Guttierez’s twisting shot banked off the wall and set up Travis Pittman’s left-footed strike into the side netting, his fourth of the year and second in as many games in Ontario.
San Diego’s first nick in their defense was a self-inflicted wound. Facing a challenge from Ontario, Pardo controlled the ball in his area but rolled it directly to the toe of Juan Carlos Gonzalez, who had Anibal Echeverria alone in the penalty area for an easy slot and a 3-1 score at 4:28 of the fourth.
Five minutes later, a blue card against Luis “Pee Wee” Ortega for a dangerous challenge of Ontario’s Evan McNeley turned into the second Fury goal, as MASL goals leader Adrien Perez saw his left-footed bid from right wing deflected in by Francisco “Chico” Cordeiro at 9:45 for a 3-2 score.
The Fury kept up the pressure and forced Pardo into a pair of diving stops in the final minute before Guerrero Pino’s full volley from center circle curved into the heart of the net at 14:56 to ice the result.
San Diego continues the back-to-back road trip with a contest against the Turlock Express (1-12) on Friday, 7:05 p.m in the Central Valley. The match will be streamed live on MASLtv. The Sockers return to Ron Newman Field at Pechanga Arena San Diego on Friday, February 15, 7:35 p.m. to meet division rival Tacoma in Landon Donovan's MASL debut. Tickets for the game are available by calling the Sockers office at 866-799-4625 or by visiting Sockers.com.