Sockers Use The Force In 7-2 Win On Star Wars Night
The Sockers won’t be back in San Diego until the month of March. On the first Friday night of February, the club left a lasting memory for their fans, capping a perfect start to the season.
Charlie Gonzalez and Tavoy Morgan each contributed a goal with two assists as the Sockers rode past the Mesquite Outlaws 7-2 at Pechanga Arena San Diego. San Diego (10-0, 29 points) scored twice on the power play and controlled a Mesquite attack that was missing top scorer Luiz Morales due to injury.
“Sometimes that can be tricky (facing a short-handed side) because you ease into the game thinking you have a big advantage,” said Sockers captain Kraig Chiles, who added a goal and an assist of his own, “We kind of stuck to our game, stayed patient and waited for our opportunity.”
San Diego enters a month-long six-match road trip in first place and on a series of winning streaks. The club has won 14 straight in all competitions (including playoffs), 16 in a row at home, 30 straight regular season matches (an MASL record), and now the club has gone 51 straight matches without a regulation loss (47-0-4).
The Sockers out-shot the Outlaws 28-16 and largely shut down Mesquite’s chances, as the Texas aspirants were not only without Morales but also top facilitator Pablo de Silva and key wing shooter Jorge DeLeon. Sebastian Mendez scored two goals for the visitors, both unassisted.
San Diego got off to their typical organized defensive start in the first quarter, until a rare mistake cost them the night’s opening goal. On a pass made through goalkeeper Boris Pardo, the ball hit a seam in the turf and hopped up Pardo’s leg, causing a turnover that spilled to Mendez at point-blank range for an easy put-in. The Outlaws led 1-0 at the 10:11 mark.
Mesquite (8-2-2, 24 points) looked poised to take their advantage into the quarter break until a mistake opened the door a crack for the Sockers to walk through, with a defender sending a simple aerial ball into the stands for defensive delay of game. San Diego was given a top-arc restart and Chiles made no mistake, pulling off a series of deceptive fakes over the ball before rolling to the low left for Leonardo de Oliveira’s one-touch goal and a 1-1 tie at 14:48 of the quarter.
“Those are the critical moments that keep you in games,” said Chiles, “That was an important free kick for us to execute and it gave us the platform to stay patient, not panic, and build our way into the game.”
The Sockers’ go-ahead goal was a perfect example of the team-wide execution that has led to 30 straight regular season wins. Defender Cesar Cerda won a hard challenge at midfield and immediately passed to forward Christian Gutierrez, who was slightly ahead on left-wing entering the attacking zone. As Cerda sprinted to the back post, Gutierrez fed the ball ahead to Charlie Gonzalez in the corner, who kept the one-touch passing alive with a centering ball across the face of the goal to…who else but Cesar Cerda, who finished what he started with a slam dunk goal good for a 2-1 lead at 4:05 of the quarter. San Diego held their 2-1 lead into the halftime locker room.
Veteran teams win on set pieces and special teams, and the Sockers used a pair of power-play goals in the second half to salt away the result. A tripping card against Mesquite’s JJ Oteze led to Tavoy Morgan’s goal, a point-blank shot hit with too much pace for Outlaws keeper Eduardo “Pollo” Cortes to control, caroming helplessly off his hands and into the net for Tavoy’s twelfth tally of the season. Leo earned his team-best twelfth assist on the play as the Sockers led 3-1 at 5:22 of the third.
Charlie Gonzalez smashed home a loose ball in the crease for 4-1 at 13:15 of the third, but the Sockers gave Mesquite a chance to get a second look at the match. First, Sebastian Mendez executed a lovely individual goal, turning a Sockers defender along the wall and gaining a half-step advantage on the right wing before smashing a tight-angle shot into the upper 90 of the net for his second goal of the match and 16th of the season, making the score 4-2.
The Sockers got the match-turning goal from an old, familiar source: an all-out Brian Farber hustle play. The veteran midfielder pressured the keeper Cortes, forced a turnover that he deflected toward the goal and off Cortes, then leapt for the rebound, heading the ball into a yawning net at 5:52 of the fourth quarter. Peewee Ortega and Chiles finished the scoring, with Chiles converting a power-play goal at 14:10 to set the final margin.
San Diego now enters the toughest road trip on the MASL schedule this season. San Diego will first head up I-15 to take on the Empire Strykers, a side that has won seven in a row heading into the weekend. The club will then head to Tacoma, Dallas, Mesquite, Chihuahua, and Monterrey before returning home on Saturday, March 4 to face the Dallas Sidekicks at 7:05pm.
“We’re looking forward to it, honestly,” said the father-of-three Chiles of the challenge, “A few games on the road are good for the old guys; it gets us out of our house and out of our responsibilities and other things. Yes, it’s going to be competitive but we’re ready to hit the road, come together, and compete in those games.”
The Sockers front office turns their attention to the March 4 Alumni Night, where the Sockers will honor the 1982-83 championship team, host the annual Alumni Halftime Game and offer a Juli Veee commemorative bobblehead for a special ticket, all while battling the Dallas Sidekicks. Tickets are available by visiting sdsockers.com or calling (866) 799-GOAL.