Fatigued Strykers Fall 1-10 Away to Chihuahua

by Empire Strykers

Chihuahua, Mexico — Visibly fatigued from having to travel south of the border the day after Sunday's rivalry clash with the San Diego Sockers, the Empire Strykers fell 1-10 to defending Major Arena Soccer League (MASL) champion Chihuahua Savage on Tuesday evening. The Mexicans' rout of their visitors from Southern California came courtesy of Chihuahua's trademark defensive discipline and a cohesive attacking display powered in part by a four-point performance from Adriano Nunes.
While Enrique Cañez earned three points and defender Roberto Escalante bagged a brace, the duo's Savage teammate Diego Reynoso shined between the sticks. While rarely tested, Reynoso recorded a stunning .923 save percentage.
In the game's fiercely contested opening quarter, the hosts were first to test the opposition netminder, Empire's Brian Orozco doing well to quickly drop down to his left and keep out Nunes' wicked drive from just outside the area. Quenton Swift then gave the Strykers the lead, stealing the ball near the midfield line and sprinting into the Savage half on the right before releasing a powerful low shot that shook the netting inside the far post.
The equalizer came when Angel Castro cut inside from the left and scored on a fierce long-range effort that seemed to catch 'keeper Orozco screened by defender Mo Alewine. Castro's side kept pushing forward and jumped ahead 2-1 on Jose Gilberto Lopez's low first-time hit from distance, the attacker converting Brandon González's helper with a precise right-footed finish inside the left post. Lopez turned provider on the final tally of the period, as he picked out Cañez to help double Chihuahua's cushion.
In a relatively uneventful second quarter, the Savage's Bryan Macias made it 4-1 less than three minutes from halftime, Cañez recording the assist.
Savage defender Roberto Escalante scored his first on a Nunes restart deep inside the third period. Positioned on the right, the 36-year-old opted to connect with his left, rifling an unstoppable bullet under the crossbar. 
Chihuahua would get two more before the end of the quarter. First, Erick Tovar capitalized on a power play, bagging a goal that bore a striking resemblance to Lopez's 2-1 netter before the break. Receiving the ball from Nunes on the left, Tovar hit it first-time from distance with his right, sending a well-placed shot into the bottom near-post corner. Hugo Puentes then made it 7-1 from Nunes, opening up his hips on the left to curl the ball across the frame and into the upper ninety for an outstanding finish.
Escalante completed his brace in the game's closing period, as he extended the Savage advantage to seven on a left-footed rocket from near the center circle that smashed off the inside of the right post and into the net. Macias had the assist on the play. Cañez made it 9-1 on an assist by Puentes, followed by a pass into the open net by midfielder Nunes for the Savage's tenth. Being set up by Tovar, Nunes benefited from Empire's backup keeper, Brandon Gomez, having pushed up to act as his side's sixth attacker.
After Puentes saw his lobbed attempt at the open net from inside his own half bounce off the crossbar of the Strykers goal, Savage backup 'keeper Luan Teles produced a quality save at the other end, leaving his feet to tip Bryce Watson's dipping shot from the right over the frame. Empire's starting netminder Orozco finally stifled a penalty shot by attacking ace Jorge Ríos to keep the visitors' deficit at 1-10.
The Empire Strykers look to snap their ten-game losing streak in Saturday's away clash with the Tacoma Stars. They play their final game of the 2023-24 campaign on Sunday, March 31, also against the Stars. Tickets to the meeting at Toyota Arena in Ontario are available at www.tixr.com/groups/theempirestrykers.