Sockers Rally To Take RNC Finals Game One
LAKELAND, FL—The heart of a champion is measured best in moments of adversity. With the chips down in the fourth quarter, trailing 3-2 in front of a hostile crowd, the San Diego Sockers shrugged and did their thing, moving one step away from a second straight Ron Newman Cup.
Kraig Chiles scored the equalizer and assisted on the game-winner, as the Sockers scored four unanswered goals to close the match, beating the Florida Tropics 6-3 on Monday night at RP Funding Center in Lakeland. Tavoy Morgan added two goals and Charlie Gonzalez had three assists, as San Diego moved a leg up on the Tropics, with the Ron Newman Cup Finals heading back to Pechanga Arena for Game Two (and a Knockout Game if necessary) on Sunday at 5:05pm.
“We just stay focused,” said Chiles of the club’s grace under pressure, “We missed a few opportunities in the first half, but we knew if we stayed at it and stayed focused, we would break the seal.”
A tense match exploded in the fourth quarter. The Sockers nursed a 2-1 halftime lead through a scoreless third, but Florida’s Zach Reget netted back-to-back goals at 1:08 and 5:00 to give the Tropics a 3-2 lead, delighting the crowd of 2,244 at RP Funding Center. Back came the Sockers, with Charlie Gonzalez leading a counter-attack 2-v-1, feeding Chiles in the middle to tie the match just 24 seconds later.
When Florida was called for a foul outside their box and turned to complain to the officials, Chiles utilized a quick restart, spotting Escoto on the back post for a tap-in goal at 6:!9 for the lead.
San Diego out-shot Florida 28-20 and built a 2-1 lead on a pair of goals from Tavoy Morgan, who scored in each of the first two quarters.
“Everybody gave 110 percent,” said Morgan, “The flow was good for us. We know defense wins games, and we stuck together in that third and fourth quarter and came out victorious.”
Cesar Cerda and Guerrero Pino scored into an empty net after the Tropics pulled their keeper with under three minutes remaining. San Diego was credited with nine blocked shots.
A relieved Charlie Gonzalez reflected on the club’s character after the match, one win away from his first MASL championship.
“Kraig stepped up like he always does, and so did ‘Churras’ (Escoto),” said Gonzalez, “That’s what this team is really good at.”
The unsung heroes of the Sockers all season has been the defensive back line. Guerrero Pino and Mitchell Cardenas traded as on-ball defenders, while Cesar Cerda, Juan Manuel Rojo and Luis “Peewee” Ortega worked off the ball, blocked shots, and challenged the midfield. Pardo had nothing but praise for his defenders.
“All the credit to our defenders, those guys held it down, and ‘Peewee’ did the dirty work,” said Pardo, “I think the playoff MVP is the entire back line.”
The Sockers and Tropics will flip coasts to conclude the 2022 Ron Newman Cup Finals, as San Diego will host Match Two on Sunday at 5:05pm from Pechanga Arena. If the Tropics win, a 15-minute Knockout Game will follow to decide the championship. If the Sockers win, a 16th professional indoor championship will be captured, including back-to-back MASL titles.
“We need everyone in San Diego to come out,” said Tavoy Morgan of Sunday’s match, “It’s going to be a good one, and we want to come out on top to win a championship.”
Tickets for Game Two are available at sdsockers.com/tickets, or by phone at (866) 799-GOAL.