Match Two: Sockers at Texas Outlaws, 7:35pm

by Sockers

The San Diego Sockers—presented by Kaiser Permanente San Diego—continue the 2024 Ron Newman Cup playoffs with Match Two of the best-of-three Western Division semifinals, taking on the Texas Outlaws. Texas leads the series 1-0. Match Two will kick off at 7:35pm PDT from Pechanga Arena in San Diego, streaming on Twitch channel @masl_soccer with Spanish-language coverage on If the series is tied 1-1 after Match Two, a fifteen-minute Knockout Game will follow Match Two, beginning fifteen minutes after the final whistle. The Sockers must win both Match Two and the Knockout Game to advance, while Texas will advance with a win in either.

The Sockers (18-6, 52 points, 0-1 playoffs) clinched the Western Division with three matches to go in the regular season, but are at their lowest point of form in four seasons. The club is on a three-match losing streak, the longest since the COVID season of 2021, when San Diego lost four in a row. San Diego is 9-6 over their past fifteen matches. The Sockers have won eight consecutive opening-round series in the Ron Newman Cup playoffs, last bowing out in 2014-15 in a single-elimination home loss to the now-defunct Las Vegas Legends.

The Sockers and Texas Outlaws are meeting for the second straight season in the opening round of the playoffs. Last season, the Sockers swept the Outlaws in two matches, winning by scores of 7-1 away, and 8-0 at home. San Diego went 3-0 against Texas during the regular sea-son, winning 6-5 in Mesquite on February 1, and by scores of 5-4 and 8-4 on February 13 and 15.

The Outlaws rode a career-best performance from goalkeeper Eduardo “Pollo” Cortes in Match One en route to a 6-4 victory on Saturday night at Mesquite Arena. Cortes stopped 29-of-33 shots against him, besting his career high for saves by five (24 vs Kansas City, 12/10/22) and posting a career-best save percentage of .879 (minimum 15 saves). Cortes’ defensive effort was bolstered by defender Uzi Tayou, who was credited with ten blocked shots in the contest, as the Sockers out-shot Texas 53-32. The Outlaws got a pair of goals from midfielder David Ortiz, including the clinching empty-netter in the fourth quarter. Vini Dantas, Andy Reyes, Dar-ren Mitchell and Emmanuel Aguirre also netted for Texas, while Drew Ruggles, Charlie Gonzalez, Kraig Chiles and Mitchell Cardenas scored goals for San Diego.

Texas welcomed the return of both Cortes to net and top goal scorer Luiz Morales to the lineup, after missing every match since February 1 due to a knee injury. Morales did not score in Match One but drew the regular attention of the San Diego defense. The Sockers are playing without top defender Cesar Cerda, who suffered a knee injury on March 23.

Historically Good

The San Diego Sockers boast an MASL-best 167-37-5 record over the ten-year history of the league. San Diego won consecutive MASL Supporters Shields in 2021-22 and 2022-23, awarded to the club with the best regular season record in the league. That streak that is now over with the Monterrey Flash clinching the 2023-24 Shield. The Sockers finished 22-2 in 2022-23, five wins ahead of Chihuahua (17) for the highest mark. The Sockers have a record of 63-8-1 the past three seasons, and saw a 16-match regular season winning streak snapped on January 14 against the Savage. The Sockers enter the playoffs on a two-match losing streak, dropping games at Kansas City and vs Tacoma when there were no playoff stakes. It ended an almost-four season streak of avoiding consecutive losses, as the last time the Sockers lost two matches in a row was March 13 and 14, 2021 during the COVID season when the club played only on the road.

Final Season in the “Grand Old Arena”

The Sockers have also been the most dominant home team in MASL history, with a 90-10-1 all-time record at Pechanga Arena. San Diego saw its 25-match regular season home winning streak end on January 14. The club is 52-6-1 at home over the past four+ seasons. However, the Sockers’ final season at Pechanga was their worst in terms of win-loss, as the club finished 8-4, the most home losses in a single season during the club’s modern history. San Diego lost twice to Chihuahua, once to Kansas City and once to Tacoma at home. The club is moving to the brand-new Frontwave Arena in Oceanside next season.

Pretty Good on the Road, Too

San Diego completed a 10-2 road schedule, matching their mark from last season. The Sock-ers’ 10-2 road record in the 2022-23 season was easily the best in the MASL, five wins better than Chihuahua. This season, Monterrey has gone 12-0 on the road, matching a mark the Sockers have achieved twice in MASL history. The Sockers had a 17-match regular season road winning streak snapped in Ontario on February 8, 2023.

Tavoy Morgan Leads Sockers Offense

Forward Tavoy Morgan finished the regular season as the Sockers’ leading scorer with (26-22=48) points, a total which was two points off the league lead. Morgan finished one point shy of his career high of (39-10=49) points set in 2021-22. His 22 assists finished three off the league lead, and represented a doubling of his previous career best of 11, set in 2022-23. Morgan heads into the playoffs on the heels of a two goal, one assist match in the season finale against Tacoma. Note: the MASL had originally handed down a two-match playoff suspension to Morgan for perceived acts while a Stars player jumped onto the San Diego bench during the run of play, but the suspension was reversed after appeal to the office of the commissioner.

A Milestone Season for Kraig Chiles

Sockers captain Kraig Chiles is in his fifteenth season with the Sockers, ranking as the fran-chise’s all-time leader in goals (481) and points (711). He reached 700 with a penalty kick goal against Kansas City on February 25. It was the second “round number” celebration for Chiles

this season, as on January 17, Chiles reached 400 MASL points with an assist against Empire (278-154=432 career, fifth-most). Chiles joined Franck Tayou, Ian Bennett, Leo Gibson and Nick Perera in the MASL 400-point club. (Tayou opened the MASL 500-point club earlier this season.) With (24-16=40) points, Chiles recorded his third straight 40+ point season, and the eighth of his MASL career. Last year, Chiles once again paced the Sockers attack, leading all scorers with (21-20=41) points. It was the eleventh time in his career he averaged at least 2.0 points per match. After a lull which saw the captain held to two assists in three matches, Chiles began to show the return of a midseason mustache, which has often preceded a scoring binge. He responded with points in ten straight matches, netting (14-8=22) points during the surge. Chiles was shut out against Chihuahua, ending his scoring streak. He scored his 20th goal of the season against Empire on March 10, and has scored at least 20 goals in every full season of the MASL (the league was held to a 10-match season in 2021 due to COVID). Chiles is two points from his eighth 40+ point season in the MASL.

Pardo Crosses Century Mark for SD Wins

Sockers two-time defending MASL Goalkeeper of the Year Boris Pardo made nineteen starts this season, posting a 14-4 record and 4.99 GAA, with a .684 SV%. A now three-time winner of the top goalkeeping honor in the MASL, Pardo is the league’s all-time leader in wins (126), including a 102-18-5 mark with the Sockers. Boris led the MASL in wins in 2022-23 with a 21-2 record, marking the third time in three full 24-match schedules where he reached the 20-win plateau. The 39-year-old also led the league in goals-against average (3.80) while finishing fifth in save percentage (.726). In 2021-22, Pardo earned his second straight championship, while picking up his second career award as MASL Goalkeeper of the Year. He again led the MASL in wins (19) and goals-against-average (4.20), and his .731 save percentage ranked second in the league. The playoff series against Texas, with two matches in three days, presents a challenge to the veteran keeper: when playing with two+ days rest this season, Pardo is 12-2 with a 4.47 GAA and .699 SV%. When playing with one-or-zero days’ rest, Pardo is 2-2 in five starts with a 6.87 GAA and .645 SV%.

Escoto Always Dangerous

Sockers midfielder Brandon Escoto has always had a flair for the dramatic, and showed it again on January 28 with a header goal at 14:55 of the fourth quarter to equalize the match against Tacoma and send San Diego toward victory. “Churras” took his soccer artistry to new heights against Empire on January 17 with an audacious bicycle kick from behind the attacking line in the fourth quarter. Escoto’s bid hit the dead center of the net after sailing over the goalkeeper’s head for the MASL Goal of the Year to date. Brandon led the Sockers in the regular season with 29 goals and ranked second with 45 points on the season.

Power Play Popping Again

The San Diego Sockers power play bounced back from a season-long slump to score on seven straight tries toward the end of the season, including a 4-for-4 performance in Kansas City. The streak ended against the Tacoma Stars in the regular season finale. In the regular season, the Sockers led the MASL in power play goals (18) and in power play opportunities (51). The club’s .353 conversion percentage ranked sixth in the league.

Brazilian Playmakers Ready for Playoff Run

Midseason injuries to playmaking midfielders Gabriel Costa and Leonardo de Oliveira led directly to the power play slump spoken of in the above note. Costa missed nine straight matches with a broken wrist from February 1 to March 17, while “Leo” was out for much of both January and March with knee pain, which has limited his speed and mobility since his return. In the end, de Oliveira was held to a career-low (full season) total of 13 matches played, contributing (8-14=22) points to the offense. In his first season with the Sockers, Costa appeared in 15 matches, netting (12-17=29) points.

Defensive Captain Down, Not Out?

Sockers defender Cesar Cerda, who wears the captain’s armband on defense, was on the travel roster for the Sockers in Texas, after dealing with a knee injury which forced him to miss the regular season finale. A return to the lineup would be more than welcomed, as Cerda led Sockers defenders with 13 goals, 22 points and 40 fouls.

Player Highlights

Charlie Gonzalez

(58-45=103) points in 58 matches as a Socker

Mitchell Cardenas

Former Outlaw led the Sockers with 32 blocked shots

Felipe Gonzalez

Missed final three matches of regular season (lower body), tied Sockers career-best with 11 goals