Sockers Use Third-Period Rally To Beat Flash 6-4
For thirty minutes, the San Diego Sockers looked like a lost club on the floor. For thirty minutes after, they looked like back-to-back MASL champions.
Christian Gutierrez scored twice during a six-goal outburst after halftime, as the Sockers came from behind to post a 6-4 win over the Monterrey Flash on Friday night at Pechanga Arena. San Diego (17-2, 49 points) won their eighteenth straight at home, but needed a huge second half effort to pick up the three points.
“We can’t play the first half like that, and let teams get ahead of us, but we did show a lot of heart,” said head coach Phil Salvagio, “There was no yelling (at halftime), it was very positive. Let’s come back and see what the Sockers are made of.”
San Diego showed their mettle with a 4-0 third quarter. Sockers captain Kraig Chiles was in the middle of it, delivering a goal with two set-piece assists. His gorgeous curving service on a right-wing free kick at 9:13 of the third quarter found Leonardo de Oliveira’s extended right foot for a sharply-struck go-ahead tally and a 4-3 lead.
Chiles blamed a hard week of training, in which San Diego had the rare opportunity to utilize the floor at Pechanga Arena for three straight nights, as the reason for the club’s first half struggles.
“I knew we were a little bit ‘leggy’ coming into this match,” said Chiles, who moved into a tie for the team lead with (19-12=31) points, “When we get into this arena, we have a tendency to really want to train hard and use every minute of it, and I think it cost in the first half. We were able to kind of rebound in the second half.”
San Diego trailed Monterrey (10-7-2, 29 points) 3-0 at the half, looking every bit leg-weary and disconnected. The crowd sat in stunned silence as the Flash rattled off two goals in succession at the end of the first quarter and start of the second quarter, pushing the visitors from Nuevo Leon ahead by the 3-0 score. The Sockers shut out the Flash for the next 43 minutes before conceding a late six-attacker goal in the fourth quarter.
To do so, San Diego leaned on all-MASL goalkeeper Boris Pardo, who stopped 9-of-13 shots, eight in the second half. His one-handed diving stop against Carlos Bocanegra in the third quarter denied a possible equalizer, and Pardo made three saves against the six-attacker formation in the late fourth quarter.
“To allow only four goals to Monterrey is quite an accomplishment,” said Salvagio, “against six attacker he was on fire.”
Gustavo Rosales scored a squirter of a goal that snuck off board and near post to get past Pardo at 9:20 of the first quarter for a 1-0 lead, finishing a lovely run along the right wall in which former Socker Erick Tovar sent Rosales in with a half-step over the defense. At the 14:00 mark of the quarter, Monterrey’s Jorge Luis Cortés netted the rebound of a top-arc Tovar shot, doubling the score at 2-0.
The second quarter began with Cortés ambushing San Diego’s Christian Gutierrez from behind, shouldering him off a loose ball on right wing and finishing a shot through the legs of Pardo, just nine seconds into the frame. It was 3-0 Monterrey, and despite an 11-to-1 shot disparity in the quarter in favor of the Sockers, nothing would get past net-minder Diego Reynoso (7-of-12 saves).
San Diego took advantage of set piece veteran savvy to get back in the match. Gifted a top-arc opportunity at 5:54 of the third quarter, Chiles slid a pass to Charlie Gonzalez on left wing, who beat Reynoso inside the right post for his sixteenth goal of the season, pulling one back for the Sockers at 3-1.
San Diego kept the pressure on and scored two goals in 22 seconds to tie the match. First, a wild wall shot by Leonardo de Oliveira caromed out to Chiles on left angle, who hit a bouncy left-footed shot that snuck inside the near post for his 19th goal of the year, making the score 3-2 at 7:31. Seconds later, rookie Irvin Mojica sent a pass forward out of the defensive zone, over the defense and to the hustling Christian Gutierrez. He pushed the ball past the keeper and off the goal wall, passing to himself and pushing the ball home with his stomach across the goal line at 7:53. Suddenly, the score was leveled at 3-3.
Leo’s goal at 9:13 of the third gave San Diego the lead, but the eventual match-winner would come on a beautiful display of team soccer. Rookie Luis Pérez worked the ball up the right wall and then brought himself to a sudden halt on right wing, freeing up space. He passed the ball into the middle to Tavoy Morgan, who found it in heavy traffic and unleashed a clever no-look back-heel pass toward left post. Felipe Gonzalez ran onto the pass at pace, left-footing a shot through Reynoso’s legs for a firm finish and a 5-3 lead at :54 of the fourth quarter.
Sockers defense held the Flash off the board for most of the fourth quarter, despite a determined attack that out-shot San Diego 15-3 in the final frame. Gutierrez salted the match with an empty-net goal from just in front of his defensive zone line, his 19th score of the season, at 12:56, assisted by Mitchell Cardenas.
With the win, combined with a 9-5 Chihuahua Savage victory over Empire, the Sockers have eliminated Empire’s chance to pass them in the final standings, and clinched a better record than every club in the Eastern Conference. The magic number to clinch the MASL Supporters Shield is down to four points over the Savage, and two over the Mesquite Outlaws. A Sockers win over Empire on Sunday combined with a Monterrey win or overtime loss in Chihuahua would clinch the Supporters Shield outright with four matches remaining.
San Diego will battle their rivals from the Inland Empire on Sunday evening, a 5:05pm kickoff from Pechanga Arena. Tickets for “Supporters Night” are available by calling (866) 799-GOAL or visiting sdsockers.com.