by Pete Richmire

MONTERREY, NUEVO LEON, MX — Goalkeeper Boris Pardo stopped 14-of-16 shots, including a potential game-tying header with 24 seconds remaining, as the San Diego Sockers ran their winning streak to eight with a 3-2 victory over the Monterrey Flash on Sunday afternoon at Arena Monterrey. The Sockers (20-2, 57 points) are the only team in the MASL to go 3-0 in Mexico this season, wrapping up a 10-2 road record.

Playing with a partially rotated lineup that was missing four regulars, the Sockers leaned on their league-leading defense to pull three points away from a Flash team hungry to qualify for the upcoming Ron Newman Cup playoffs. Defenders Mitchell Cardenas and Ismael Rojo netted goals along with midfielder Hiram “Pollo” Ruiz for San Diego. Rojo’s score, his sixth of the season and fourth in Monterrey, proved to be the match winner at 6:37 of the third quarter.
Pardo made sure those points would come home to San Diego by stopping literally everything he could. The two Monterrey goals, scored by Walter Ayoví and Erick Tovar, were each inch-perfect rockets into the upper frame worthy of goal-of-the-week consideration. With thirty striker Luis Genaro Castillo in the middle of the crease, looking for a header. Castillo snapped the ball on frame only to be parried away by Pardo, who went post-to-post on a diving save to cement the win.
In doing so, Pardo became the league’s only 20-match winner (20-2) this season in net, while maintaining his position as one of only four keepers to start every match this regular season. He leads the league in wins (20) and goals-against average (3.84) while ranking fifth in save percentage (.723). The defending Goalkeeper of the Year, Pardo at age 39 is one of only four keepers in the league with over 1,200 minutes played in net.
With both clubs playing their second match of the weekend, the first quarter was a scoreless affair dotted with a couple missed opportunities down low for San Diego. The Sockers’ first goal came from well outside, when Tavoy Morgan (two assists) raked a reverse pass across the side-wall glass to Mitchell Cardenas, who first reached around the attempted capture of Monterrey’s Carlos Bocanegra with his right leg, then settled the ball and launched a twisting shot from outside that found the net at 2:08 of the second quarter for a 1-0 lead.
The shutout held until 11:29 of the quarter, when Monterrey’s Walter Ayoví displayed that talent that led him to feature twice for Ecuador in the FIFA World Cup. Accepting a pass from Luis Genaro Castillo well outside the attacking line, Ayoví unleashed a left-footed rocket that smashed the bottom of the crossbar and down just inside the goal line, bouncing back up-and-down with the ferocity of the shot’s pace. His eighth goal of the season knotted the score at 1-1, which held until halftime.
San Diego used defensive pressure effectively throughout the match to control tempo and possession. Early in the third quarter, Tavoy Morgan played facilitator again, leaving a pass gently near the goal mouth for an onrushing Hiram “Pollo” Ruiz, who neatly tapped home a go-ahead score at 3:07. The Sockers made it 3-1 on a top-arc set piece goal from Ismael Rojo, who worked the left-wing slot usually occupied by Leonardo de Oliveira. Leo was instead on the ball in Kraig Chiles’ usual position, and spotted Rojo with the best chance, a simple tuck pass and a hard finish into the back-post netting at 6:37.
San Diego bunkered in during the fourth quarter and withstood a Monterrey attack that generated 25 shots in total. The Flash scored when Tovar put a half-volley into an impossibly small window from down low inside the top corner of left post for his fifteenth goal of the season at 8:02. The Sockers missed a couple chances against the sixth attacker defense and saw midfielder Daniel Villela make a save against them in the goalkeeper’s jersey, helping set up Pardo’s last-minute heroics.

The Sockers have two final home matches to both tune up and rest up in time for the upcoming Ron Newman Cup playoffs, where San Diego will have home field advantage. Playoff tickets go on sale to the public at 10am on Monday at and by calling (866) 799-GOAL. The Sockers host Milwaukee on Thursday night at 7:35pm at Pechanga Arena, with free parking at $10 GA tickets. The club wraps the regular season on Saturday at home against Tacoma, a 7:05pm kickoff.