DONOVAN SCORES TWICE, SAN DIEGO CLINCHES PACIFIC DIVISION
Landon Donovan scored his first MASL goal just twelve seconds into the action and added another before the first quarter was five minutes old, helping the San Diego Sockers to their thirteenth straight victory, a 13-2 rout of the Turlock Express. Donovan added two second-half assists for a four-point night, and was one of four Sockers (15-1) to net a pair of goals. San Diego clinched the MASL's Pacific Division regular-season title with the win.
“It happened so fast, the game started and the next thing you know I had a tap-in,” said Donovan of his first goal, “It was good to get that out of the way, but more importantly a really good win, and a good performance.”
Kraig Chiles, Brandon Escoto, and Ray Contreras added braces of their own, while Hiram “Pollo” Ruiz scored his long-awaited first goal of the year and added a pair of assists to the cause. MASL wins and goals-against average leader Boris Pardo (W, 15-1, 3.34 GAA) was credited with eight saves in the victory.
A crowd of 4,263 came in anticipation of seeing Donovan score his first goal in pro indoor soccer, but the moment came while many were still finding their way to their seats at Pechanga Arena San Diego. Off quick high pressure and a turnover, Escoto found Donovan unmarked by the left post for a quick tap-in and a goal at twelve seconds of the first quarter. The entire Sockers bench came out to engulf Donovan in a celebration scrum.
Just eighteen seconds later off a goal wall free kick, Chiles floated a ball through the air to Luis “Pee Wee” Ortega, who smashed his ninth goal of the season into the upper corner for an instant 2-0 advantage at :30. Donovan’s second, cleaning up a ball tapped down by Ortega in the box at 7:40, extended the advantage to 3-0.
Turlock opened their scoring on a power play rocket by Arturo Pulido, who ripped the ball through the back netting on a scramble play and changed possession to make it 3-1 at 9:49. Less than two minutes later, Donovan created offense for the Sockers again by drawing a foul in the penalty area. Awarded a free kick, Chiles hesitated to break the wall before dancing the ball between the legs of goalkeeper Edgar Martinez for his eighteenth goal of the season and a 4-1 lead.
Omar Tapia and Escoto traded goals in the second quarter, with Escoto’s blast off the inside of the right post and in signifying a goal in eight consecutive matches. The 5-2 lead held until halftime.
After a passionately defended start to the third quarter, the Sockers wore down the Express (2-15) with possession and then flooded the scoreboard with goals. Contreras started his scoring night at 8:35 of the third with a sitter from inside the area after a turnover and one-touch pass from Cesar Cerda. Later on the power play, San Diego saw Donovan work the middle of the paint before laying off a right angle pass to Chiles, who smashed home his second of the night.
“As the captain, I’m doing my best to keep everyone focused,” said Chiles of the team’s success and division title, “Winning the division means very little to us, we’ve done it in the past and lost in the playoffs, so we know it’s about getting sharp, healthy and fit and getting ready to take care of business then.”
The fourth quarter started with a parade of increasingly spectacular scores. Contreras from outside the red line, at pace and angle. A double back heel connection from Travis Pittman to Hiram Ruiz for his first goal of the season. Christian Segura from one step inside the midfield stripe, a cheeky chip which Martinez got one paw on but not enough. Fourth but not last, Escoto accepting a Donovan pass on left angle and playing the ball behind his legs from right to left before flicking home his second of the night. By the 4:52 mark of the frame it was 11-2 and the Sockers’ division title was secured.
Christian Gutierrez and Cesar Cerda closed the scoring for San Diego.