Sockers Handle Strykers 8-5 In Opener In Ontario

Tavoy Morgan netted a hat-trick and Christian Gutierrez added a pair of goals, as the San Diego Sockers held off the Empire Strykers 8-5 on Saturday night at Toyota Arena. The Sockers (1-0) opened their back-to-back championship defense with a 6-1 goals run after trailing 2-1 early in the second quarter. 

“It feels great to be back and get the first win of the season,” said Morgan, who led the Sockers with 39 goals and 49 points last season, earning MASL Elite VI honors, “It was a good performance but we could do better, and we’ll work on that tomorrow.”

The Sockers and Strykers will face one another on Sunday evening at Pechanga Arena San Diego Sunday at 5pm to wrap up the weekend home-and-home back-to-back. Empire (0-2) has lost ten straight matches dating back to last season, when they were named the Ontario Fury.

Defending MASL Pass Master Leonardo de Oliveira picked up where he left off, gathering a match-high three assists. Cesar Cerda had a goal and two assists, and Charlie Gonzalez added a goal and assist. 

The Sockers, facing a club in Empire that had started the season ten days before them, showed some rust in conceding early goals in periods and a pair of goals against a sixth attacker, but were buoyed by their veteran goalkeeper and defenders. Defending MASL Goalkeeper of the Year Boris Pardo collected six saves, while defenders Mitchell Cardenas and Guerrero Pino each blocked goals off the line, and Cardenas had a sweeping block of a wide-open Strykers player in the final minute to seal the win. 

“A little sloppy, but it’s to be expected,” said Cardenas, “It’s always good to win and learn on the way, and we’ll have a quick turnaround for tomorrow’s match at home.”

The Sockers got their season’s scoring ledger going quickly, as Tavoy Morgan opened his account just 1:14 into the first quarter, converting a low ball fed by Leo on a top-of-arc free kick. The Sockers led 1-0 just like that, and held the lead through the opening fifteen minutes behind a pair of Boris Pardo saves.

The second quarter was a different story, as Empire netted twice in the opening 52 seconds, turning the match upside down and forcing a Phil Salvagio timeout. Gabriel Costa took advantage of great service from his target forward, as Franck Tayou fed the diminutive midfielder a ball in the center of the box unmarked for the equalizing goal. Just seconds later on the restart, the Sockers found themselves stretched out, and Jorge Pacheco used a nifty left-to-right move to work his way into the middle and beat Pardo up high. The Strykers led 2-1. 

Tavoy Morgan established his presence as a constant attacking threat to draw the Sockers back to happier territory. He turned Empire captain Isreal Sesay at the yellow line to draw the first blue card of the season and a two-minute power play. The Sockers patiently worked their man advantage, with Charlie Gonzalez lacing a pretty twisting goal on de Oliveira’s second assist of the half, knotting the score 2-2 at 6:11. 

Three minutes later on a wing free kick, Leo bounced a challenging pass out of the corner, perfectly designed to take advantage of the athleticism of Christian Gutierrez. The 6’2” striker got high and extended his leg into an awkward angle, poking the ball out of the air and into the corner of the net for a 3-2 lead at 9:47. The Sockers would not trail again. 

Morgan’s second of the night came at 12:04 of the second on a great individual effort, as he received a lead pass from Cesar Cerda just outside the attacking zone and took on his defender one-v-one. Morgan beat Phibo Arriaga clean and then slotted the ball behind Claysson de Lima for a 4-2 lead, which the Sockers held into the half. 

Empire again spoke early out of the locker room, as Gabriel Costa (two goals, assist) netted a goal on Justin Stinson’s corner assist just 31 seconds into the third period, dropping the score to 4-3 San Diego. The Sockers answered on Tavoy’s hat trick goal at 7:14 of the period, and the Sockers led 5-3 after three frames.

With Empire pushing forward in search of goals, the Sockers used the counter-attack to seal the match. Goals by Brandon Escoto and Cesar Cerda on 2-v-1 breakaways pushed San Diego out to a 7-3 advantage. The Strykers pulled their keeper with over six minutes remaining, and managed sixth-attacker goals by Franck Tayou and Jesus Pacheco to narrow the margin to 7-5 with 50 seconds left. Gutierrez salted things away with an empty netter at 14:56. 

The Sockers and Strykers now make the two-hour drive down I-15 to face one another on Sunday evening at Pechanga Arena. Gates will open at 3:45pm, with the club’s championship ring ceremony and banner drop at 4:45pm, and kickoff at 5:05pm. Tickets are available at the Pechanga Arena box office, by calling (866) 799-GOAL, or by visiting