Match Report // Sockers Soar On Gutierrez Golden Goal

ONTARIO, CA — A stretch pass. A perfect run. A finish you work on from the first day you take the field. It all added up to a magical moment for a nomadic team in search of a title.

Christian Gutierrez scored the golden goal 7:37 into sudden-death overtime, as the San Diego Sockers outlasted the Tacoma Stars by a final score of 6-5 on Friday night at Toyota Arena in Ontario, California. San Diego takes a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three series, with Game Two scheduled for Sunday evening in Ontario. If the series is tied 1-1, a 15-minute mini-game would follow for Game Three.

The Sockers won on a counter-attack after minutes of intense pressure by Tacoma in the attacking end. Goalkeeper Boris Pardo (1-0, 9/14 saves) made back-to-back point-blank saves in the crease with under four minutes to play in the extra period. After Gutierrez knocked the ball away from the Stars and to Leonardo de Oliveira (three assists), Leo took a touch into midfield and threaded a stretch pass into the right-wing for Gutierrez to run onto. Sent in 1-v-1 with the keeper, Gutierrez used the inside of his right foot to get past the sprawling Danny Waltman (8 saves) and push the ball into the left corner of the net.

“We came into this match after a few bad matches for us, but the playoffs are a totally different animal,” said Gutierrez of the play, “I’m glad we could take the win." 

The see-saw match saw four ties and six lead changes, with the biggest advantage a third-quarter 4-2 Tacoma lead. San Diego netted three straight goals in the fourth quarter to grab a 5-4 edge, only to see the Stars net the equalizer on Micheal Ramos’ second goal of the game, scored with six attackers at 11:45 of the fourth quarter. 

“Going into the next game we need to do a better job of controlling the scoreline,” said Gutierrez, “Tacoma’s always a great team, but if we can keep this momentum going, I think we can take the next one as well.”

Six different goal scorers netted for the Sockers, including Tavoy Morgan’s fourth-quarter power-play goal for a short-lived 5-4 lead at 6:22 of the fourth. Brandon Escoto, Kraig Chiles, Hiram “Pollo” Ruiz and Cesar Cerda also netted for San Diego. 

Tacoma controlled large portions of the action, rallying from 1-0 down to start the second quarter with goals from Douglas Lima and Nick Perera. The Stars led 2-1 at halftime, saw Chiles net a leveling score 1:11 into the third, then dominated ball possession, scoring twice more in the period for a 4-2 lead. Ramos and Willie Spurr were the goal scorers as Tacoma took a two-goal lead into the final quarter. 

“Pollo” sparked the San Diego comeback with a rocket shot at 1:33 that hit the back post so hard, it was originally ruled not a goal until the referees in the box confirmed the shot had found its way home at menacing speed. A classic indoor give-and-go between Chiles and Cerda saw the All-Star defender finish at 4:24 to make it 4-4. Just two minutes later, Tacoma’s Evan McNe-ley was shown a blue card for roughing Tavoy Morgan, and Morgan made him and the Stars pay with a short-post goal for the 5-4 lead. 

The Sockers and Stars will both stay in Ontario for the off day before returning to Toyota Arena for the return leg of the series on Sunday at 5pm. The game is available to watch only on MASL pay-per-view on Facebook.