Sockers Match Report // St. Louis Scores Late Again For Win
ST. LOUS - Stefan Mijatovic scored a restart goal from the top of the arc with 4:01 remaining in the fourth quarter, snapping a 4-4 tie and propelling the host St. Louis Ambush to an eventual 6-4 victory over the San Diego Sockers-presented by Kaiser Permanente-on Sunday afternoon at The Family Arena. The Sockers (3-4) dropped both games in St. Louis, falling to fifth place in the seven-team MASL.
Brandon Escoto scored a hat trick for San Diego, including his 100th MASL goal, but it wasn’t enough on a day when the Sockers played without Kraig Chiles, Slavisa Ubiparipovic, Cesar Cerda, and Felipe Gonzalez. Gerado Jurado was credited for the other San Diego goal, which came on a deflection off a St. Louis defender in front of the net.
While the Sockers were in both contests deep into the fourth quarter, head coach Phil Salvagio had a stark admonition for the players who were in his lineup.
“We gave a lot of players chances to play, and to show what they had,” said Salvagio, “They didn’t show up today.”
“My guys don’t put the effort in,” Salvagio continued, “If you look around the league right now, every team that’s putting in the effort, they’re looking sharp. We don’t have the players that want to work hard, and put the effort in on off-days. They want to look good, and get their opportunities, but when they get the opportunity, they’re not ready for it.”
St. Louis (6-6) leapfrogged the Sockers in the standings, which are aligned by winning percentage during the COVID-shortened 2021 season. J.T. Thomas led the Ambush attack with two goals, while keeper Paulo Nascimento stopped 14 shots to earn the win in net.
San Diego, playing with only 13 field players after the departure of Cerda back to San Diego on Saturday to be with his expectant wife, held the bulk of the possession throughout the match and took the lead 3:47 into the first quarter, when Guerrero Pino sprung Escoto open up the middle of the field. Brandon cut to his left and tucked the ball in between the legs of the defender, finding the net for his 100th Major Arena Soccer League goal.
While pushing for a second, the Sockers instead saw a turnover at the right midfield wall give Ambush defender Magui Souza ample space to come forward. Not known as a shooter, Souza took advantage of the room given and snuck home a shot inside the left post at 12:40 to tie the match 1-1.
The second quarter was either viewed as a comedy or a tragedy depending on the receiving point of view. San Diego had no less than five great chances on goal, all somehow eluding the goal line and net beyond. An open Jurado, shot high from six feet out. A 4-v-2, up in smoke with three shots all an inch off target. The best, a half-volley by Eduardo Velez ticketed for inside the right post with 5:25 left, was headed off the line by Magui Souza instead.
Meantime, St. Louis took the lead on a 1-v-1 play by William Essay at 4:23 of the second quarter, and built out to 3-1 at 2:53 of the third, when J.T. Thomas got his first of two markers in the frame. Escoto’s second of the match, on a pass to the low left post from Leonardo de Oliveira, cut the lead to 3-2 at 3:51. Thomas headed home the rebound of a long shot saved by Boris Pardo (12/17 saves) at 9:32 to re-establish a two-goal lead at 4-2.
The Sockers dug in for a fourth-quarter comeback, aided by an own goal. Gerardo Jurado dug a loose ball out of a double-team in the attacking right corner and swept the ball toward the net, where it caromed off the Ambush’s Tony Walls into the goal, narrowing the score to 4-3 at 3:02.
Less than a minute later, Escoto completed his hat trick, gifted a long entry into the zone 1-v-1 when St. Louis’ Richard Schmermund (two assists) attempted to bicycle the entry pass away. Escoto took advantage and made no mistake on Ambush keeper Paulo (14/18 saves), pushing home his 9th goal of the season to make the score 4-4 with 11:02 left to play.
Both keepers were tested repeatedly in the fourth quarter, and both came up with multiple saves to keep the score tied. With 4:01 left, a clearance in the defensive zone off the foot of a Sockers defender set up a free kick. After an Ambush timeout, St. Louis used the motion of their players coming off the bench and onto the field as motion for the set piece. Thomas, as if he was running into place, instead ran through the defensive formation, and Mijatovic followed his run with a low shot along the same path that found its way home into the goal. St. Louis added a goal by Walls against six attackers with 1:13 left in the match to settle the final score.
San Diego’s offense mustered four goals, but still has yet to mark more than five in a match this season, and ranks last in the league at 3.43 goals per game. The Sockers leave for the West Coast with an 0-3 record in Missouri this season, and an 0-3 record all-time against the Ambush. With only three games remaining on their schedule, San Diego (3-4) would have to win out in order to keep their streak of winning seasons alive. The Sockers have never posted a .500-or-worse season since their franchise restart in 2009.
After two consecutive weeks of road trips and five games in eleven days, the Sockers will now have a week to recover and train, before playing a pair of games in Ontario on March 13 and 14, against the Ontario Fury and Tacoma Stars, respectively. No tickets are being sold for the matches in deference to California health and safety protocols. All matches can be watched on MASL Facebook pay-per-view at facebook.com/MASLsoccer/events.