Sockers Sweep Wave To Advance To Semifinals
The likely MASL Goalkeeper of the Year put together a performance worthy of an MVP in the quarterfinal round of the Ron Newman Cup playoffs.
Building on his 17-for-19 save performance in Match One, Pardo stopped 13-of-16 shots on Sunday—including ten in a row during a relentless Milwaukee Wave second-half attack—as the San Diego Sockers ran away late to sweep the Wave by a 9-3 final score at Pechanga Arena. The Sockers advance to the semi-finals against an opponent to be determined over the next two days.
Leonardo de Oliveira--the MASL's regular-season Pass Master with 33 assists--powered San Diego's attack with a goal and four assists, giving him a league-leading (2-6=8) points in the playoffs through two matches.
A crowd of 1,535 on a short-notice Sunday night saw the Sockers (25-0-1, 2-0 playoffs) win their 22nd match in a row, building a 5-2 lead by halftime then hunkering down for a defensive performance that was almost impenetrable. Pardo only saw three shots in the first half, then went 9-for-9 in the third quarter as the Wave (10-14-1, 0-2 playoffs) out-shot the Sockers 12-0 in the frame.
“I was waiting for a little bit more (action) in the first half. It’s hard to stay engaged when the shots aren’t coming,” said Pardo, who improved to 2-0 with a 2.50 goals-against average (GAA) and .857 save percentage (SV%), “Once the shots were coming, you get zoned in, and I thought we had a good (defensive) balance. Our guys blocked a lot of shots.”
As Milwaukee fought to keep their season alive, they out-shot the Sockers 22-7 in the second half. San Diego withstood an entire scoreless quarter of intense pressure in the third, finally breaking through on defender Cesar Cerda’s goal 3:29 into the fourth quarter. After Wave star Ian Bennett extended his personal goal-scoring streak to 30 matches with a 6-v-4 power-play goal, the Sockers scored three times into the empty net late, almost adding a fourth as time expired.
San Diego defenders scored three times, including a pair for Juan Manuel Rojo, who electrified the crowd with a dazzling speed burst up the left wall and left-footed volley into the side netting from an extreme angle, closing out the first half for a 5-2 lead at 14:21 of the second.
Pardo appreciated the balance he received from his defensive corps.
“They’re getting (goals) when they can! It’s good to see that, to keep a steady balance, and then break out at the right time. Defend as a unit, stay together, and we’ll find our chances on the other side.”
The MASL re-installed video review for the playoffs, and Sockers head coach Phil Salvagio threw his flag for his lone challenge of the match in the second minute, rewarded with a goal reversal. Bennett had settled down the ball with a handball in the corner and fed Andre Hayne for an instant goal, but VR brought the goal back and kept the score 0-0.
Kraig Chiles netted two goals with an assist, teaming with Leo unselfishly twice as San Diego built a 2-0 lead through the first quarter. The opener was a perfect example of Leo’s impact on both sides of the ball, as de Oliveira first rescued a bad pass from Cesar Cerda, then in his next touch fed Chiles on the edge of the crease. The Sockers captain one-timed a pass back to Leo for the shot and goal at 9:06 and a 1-0 lead.
San Diego’s possession was strong in the first half, wearing down the Wave for late goals in each quarter. It was Leo’s turn to show why he was the MASL’s Pass Master, perfectly slotting a centering pass through traffic from the right corner to the middle of the crease, where Chiles knocked it home at 14:20 for the 2-0 advantage.
Early in the second, Leo pounced on a right-wing loose ball at the red line, curving a pass with the inside of his right foot to the far post. Charlie Gonzalez was waiting, extending his right foot and redirecting the ball with the sole of the foot for a beautiful goal and a 3-0 lead at 2:24.
Milwaukee responded with a passionate run of play that took the momentum back. Andre Hayne and Gordy Gurson scored goals sixty seconds apart at 5:55 and 6:55, drawing the scoreline back to 3-2.
San Diego was given a shootout power play when forward Tavoy Morgan (one assist) was cleaned out by Wave keeper Joey Kapinos after the shot was away on a leg-to-leg tackle that left both men temporarily hobbled. As Kapinos momentarily exited for reserve Matt Perrella in net, Kraig Chiles took the shootout, one touch forward and a rocket into the center of the upper V, as the Sockers regained a 4-2 lead at 13:08.
Rojo’s “golazo” closed the half at 5-2, but the rest of the match was Milwaukee pressuring behind Marcio Leite, Bennett and Mario Alvarez, who helped dominate possession and shots on goal. The Sockers withstood and had multiple counter opportunities come up empty on wide shots in what was ultimately a scoreless third quarter.
San Diego finally broke through the possession wave early in the fourth quarter. A 1-2 play between Christian Gutierrez and Tavoy Morgan saw Tavoy shoot just wide, but keep the rebound alive. The ball came around to Cesar Cerda, who rifled a low shot inside the left post at 3:29 for a back-breaking goal.
When San Diego’s Guerrero Pino was shown a fourth-quarter blue card for pushing at 6:44, Wave head coach Guiliano Oliviero went for broke, pulling his keeper for Luan Oliveira as a sixth attacker on the “super power play”. Oliveira set up Bennett for a point-blank goal at 8:24, the final turn of the red light in MIlwaukee’s season.
Christian Gutierrez (9:07), Felipe Gonzalez (13:32), and Rojo (13:52) all potted the empty net with goals, and Rojo tried to finish a hat trick as the horn sounded to end the match. The Sockers out-scored the Wave 18-5 in the aggregate, taking the series 2-0.
The Sockers will face an opponent to be determined in the semi-finals, the lowest-remaining seed of Chihuahua (4), Baltimore (5), or Dallas (6). Baltimore leads Chihuahua 1-0 in their best-of-three series, and Kansas City leads Dallas 1-0 in theirs, with Games Two coming on Monday and Tuesday respectively. A schedule and tickets will be available by 9:00am Wednesday at the latest for the semi-finals at sdsockers.com/tickets or (866) 799-GOAL, at a date and time to be determined.