Ontario, Calif. — The Empire Strykers rode five unanswered second-half goals to victory on Saturday evening, as they boosted their playoff hopes by defeating home side Dallas Sidekicks 11-4 and improving to 2-5-0 (wins-losses-overtime/shootout losses) on their Major Arena Soccer League (MASL) campaign. Mexican star Marco Fabián enjoyed yet another standout performance for the Strykers, bringing his points total to eleven via two goals and two assists in his fourth indoor outing. Fellow Empire midfielder Justin Stinson bagged a hat-trick while defender-turned-forward Stefan Mijatovic had a goal and two helpers.
The two sides exchanged opportunities early in the opening quarter. First, Empire's Gerardo Jurado saw his attempted finish from the doorstep deflected just wide. Then, Strykers 'keeper Bradon Gomez produced an outstanding kick-save to deny Yahir Romero's wide-open shot from inside the area. Stinson subsequently put the visitors ahead, receiving the ball from Israel Sesay on the left and roofing it from a tight angle. The goal-scorer came within inches of doubling his side's advantage, but his long-range rocket bounced off the underside of the crossbar.
In the second period, the Sidekicks tied the score on a netter from Flavio Guzman, who sent his powerful drive from the top of the arc inside the left post. The away team reclaimed the lead not long thereafter, former El Tri ace Fabián finishing on a nice interplay with recent signing Harold Hanson, only for Dallas to draw even yet again. Romero beat his man near the boards on the left and streaked toward the box before making it 2-2 by firing a left-footed bullet inside the far post.
There were more quality tallies to come before the end of the qearter. Empire's Randy Martinez was next to find the back of the net, as he opened his MASL account to make it 2-3. The indoor rookie opted to connect first-time with another Hanson helper and blasted the ball into the near-side top corner from the right. The Sidekicks again showed a resilient reaction to the setback, drawing level on Guzman's second goal of the contest. However, their opponents continued to press and nearly reaped the reward when Alan Perez' low shot from far out forced a strong diving parry by Dallas netminder Juan Gamboa.
Empire did make it 3-4 on a power play, Mijatovic converting a beautiful heel pass from Momo Gueye via the underside of the bar.
The visitors finally pulled away following intermission. After Stinson made it 3-5 from Mijatovic, forward Abdul Mansaray scored on a breakaway to extend his side's lead to 3-6. Moises Hernandez pulled one back for the hosts, Rafael Rodriguez recording the assist, but Fabián subsequently demonstrated why he has represented Mexico in two FIFA World Cups. Showing impressive vision and timing, the Strykers midfielder threaded a perfect pass to Stinson, who coolly slotted past the onrushing Gamboa to make it 4-7.
Early in the game's final period, Albert Rodriguez had a golden chance to get the Sidekicks back to within two. Having received the ball with his back toward goal, the 36-year-old did well to turn quickly and rattle the frame with yet another shot off the underside of the crossbar. The home side would be punished for the missed opportunity when Fabián scored off Jurado. Next, Strykers captain Sesay took advantage of Dallas fielding six attackers, as he bagged a rare goal by finding the open net for his team's ninth of the match.
Mijatovic subsequently set up fellow ex-Utica man Quenton Swift, who recorded his first ever tally in an Empire uniform. After one more shot off the underside of the bar, Strykers attacker Jurado this time rattling the frame, Fabián would pick out Mansaray to round out the score at 4-11.
The Strykers look to build on the decisive victory when they return home for Tuesday's clash with the Texas Outlaws. Tickets are available at www.tixr.com/groups/theempirestrykers.