Sockers Roll Past Utica City Improving To 9-0-1
The sport of indoor soccer is grueling by nature, cruel on the body, and almost impossible to play during an impacted schedule. Five matches in ten days, including three road matches, two in Mexico, three in overtime, and three in the final five days?
In San Diego, it sounds like a winning formula.
Christian Gutierrez scored his 9th and 10th goals of the season, Juan-Manuel Rojo had his third straight two-goal game and two assists, and Xavier Snaer-Williams won his second straight start in net, as the San Diego Sockers ran their winning streak to six, handling Utica City FC by a final score of 8-3. San Diego (9-0-1) wrapped up a stretch of five matches in ten days by posting a perfect 5-0 record.
Gutierrez, a former defensive runner who has blossomed into a two-way All-Star, scored both his goals in the first half, finishing a left-wing strike and a power-play scramble.
It was the fifth game in ten days and we knew it would be tiring but the team reacted well,” said Gutierrez, “We went a little bit on the defensive, but little by little the goals started going in, and I think the team looked good.”
An overtime shootout in Ontario on Wednesday had fatigued the Sockers, and Friday’s win over Tacoma cost the club their captain, as Kraig Chiles sat out Sunday with back discomfort.
“Four games in a week is enough for my back, I’ll be good,” Chiles said on Twitter post-match.
The heavy workload translated into early sharpness for the second time this weekend, as the Sockers jumped on Utica for a 5-0 first-half lead. Rojo collected assists on the first two goals, setting up Sean Callahan for a back-post tap-in 2:07 into the contest. It was Callahan’s first goal with the Sockers after starring on the M2 side Sockers2.
Less than a minute later, Rojo’s diagonal cross-pass through the crease was perfectly stepped over by Felipe Gonzalez, the “dummy” freezing Utica keeper Andrew Coughlin just long enough for Gutierrez to have an open slot for his first goal of the night, and a 2-0 lead at 3:01.
Gutierrez knocked in a scramble goal on the power play in the second quarter, and Rojo got on the end of the first of three Leonardo de Oliveira assists, putting the Sockers up 5-0 at the 9:54 mark of the frame.
Utica City (2-8) dropped their sixth straight, but showed promise over a 20-minute stretch in which they clawed back into the match. 42-year-old Hewerton Moreira, who was the head coach of the St. Louis Ambush the prior two seasons, collected three straight assists in his second game back as an active player, with Quenton Swift, Joey Tavernese, and Pablo de Silva netting the goals. 5-0 had become 5-3, and the Sockers’ prospect of running the gauntlet were dimming.
The match turned back in San Diego’s direction when Coughlin (6/12 saves) was called for a handball outside his zone, leading to a shootout. While Juan Carlos “Charlie” Gonzalez’s shootout attempt was saved, the ensuing power play saw Leo set up Tavoy Morgan for his 15th goal of the season, and a 6-3 lead. Morgan extended his goals streak to eight straight matches.
Meanwhile, 22-year-old rookie Xavier Snaer-Williams was tested less often than on Friday, but nonetheless stopped seven of ten shots, improving to 2-0. He also collected his first MASL point, coming seconds after his best save. Facing six attackers with under five minutes to go, Snaer-Williams made a scrambling, diving two-handed stop, reversing direction to grab Jake Schindler’s point-blank shot. He got up, threw out to Luis “Peewee” Ortega, and celebrated as Peewee hit the empty net from midfield, creating Snaer-Williams’ first career assist.
Rojo’s second goal came into the empty net on a back-post finish of Gutierrez’s crossing pass with 1:45 to play. Cesar Cerda had a goal and assist on the night. The Sockers went 2-for-3 on the power play, conceding their final chance in the game’s last minute, as the two clubs spent the time exchanging handshakes and hugs.
In the end, despite the miles of travel, three overtime matches, and five contests in ten days, the Sockers found their way to the promised land, a 9-0-1 record, and a nine-point lead in the MASL West standings. Gutierrez had a sigh of relief when asked about finishing the grueling run so well.
“Yes, I’m a little tired from having to play so many games and flying (from Chihuahua), but thank God we won all five, it doesn’t matter how—in overtime, shootout, winning is winning, and hope to keep alive the winning streak.”
The next opportunity comes in a week, as the Sockers again host the Tacoma Stars on Sunday, February 6 for a 5:05pm kickoff at Pechanga Arena. Tickets are available at sdsockers.com/tickets or by phone at (866) 799-GOAL.