by Pete Richmire

The San Diego Sockers- presented by Kaiser Permanente San Diego-return home for their final homestand of the 2021-22 MASL regular season, taking on the Florida Tropics Thursday night and the Ontario Fury on Sunday evening. Thursday’s match is set for a 7:35pm PDT kickoff from Pechanga Arena, and will be aired live exclusively on Twitch, on the @masl_soccer channel.

The Sockers (21-0-1, 60 points) have won eighteen consecutive matches, the longest active streak in the MASL. San Diego has lost only once all season, an overtime 8-7 setback to Ontario on January 9. The club enters play this week in the top spot of the MASL standings table, seven points ahead of Florida (53 points), the only team with the possibility of catching or passing the Sockers. The Tropics will play Ontario on Wednesday night, and must win to keep their hopes of passing San Diego alive. The Sockers’ win streak has included four overtime victories, three in sudden death and one in a shootout, a total which reduced the club’s standing points by four under the new MASL rules.

This is the first and only matchup between Florida and San Diego this season. The two clubs last locked boots in the Ron Newman Cup semi-finals in 2021, with the Sockers prevailing 5-4 (OT) and 4-3 to take the series 2-0. In MASL regular-season history, the Tropics and Sockers have met four times, all in Florida, with San Diego winning three of four. This is Florida’s first-ever trip to Pechanga Arena San Diego.

Last weekend, the Sockers brought a short-handed squad across the country and nevertheless pulled out back-to-back wins from the East Coast. On Saturday, San Diego held off Baltimore 8-6 at SECU Arena, finishing a two-match sweep of the Blast. Eduardo “El Vaquero” Velez, playing in place of Kraig Chiles in the lineup, netted a hat trick to power the offense. The following evening, the Sockers won their eighteenth in a row, closing out a perfect 12-0 road record with a 4-1 win at Harrisburg. Charlie Gonzalez and Brandon Escoto each netted two goals in the win.

Florida (17-2-2, 53 points) has clinched the East Division and will finish no worse than second in the overall MASL standings table. The Tropics were the #1 seed in both 2019-20 (season suspended due to COVID) and 2020-21, but have yet to appear in a Ron Newman Cup Final. Midfielder Victor Parreiras leads a multi-faceted attack with (26-21=47) points, leading the Tropics in goals and points. Zach Reget ranks second in goals (24-15=39 points) and has a knack for scoring in the clutch. Nine Florida players have scored at least eight goals this season. The Tropics have been without top keeper Hugo Silva since mid-season, platooning Brett Petricek (4-1-1, 6.22 GAA, .667 SV%) and Rainer Hauss (3-0-1, 5.43 GAA, .701 SV%) in net.