PHIL SALVAGIO'S 200TH COACHING WIN COMES IN SOCKERS 2-1 HOME OPENER
Cesar Cerda’s golden goal 4:35 into sudden-death overtime gave the San Diego Sockers a 2-1 win over the Empire Strykers, and a weekend back-to-back sweep to open the 2022-23 MASL schedule. The win was head coach Phil Salvagio’s 200th as the bench boss of the Sockers (200-42-1 record).
The Sockers (2-0, 5 points) went over an hour of game clock in between goals, but rode goalkeeper Boris Pardo and the defense to keep the match alive before Cerda’s dynamic play sealed the win.
“We said we could not lose this game,” said Cerda of the finish, “We kept working hard and I saw my chance, and I took it.”
Cerda sprung on a loose touch along the left wall from Strykers defender Juan Topete after he accepted a cross-field pass. Popping the ball forward, Cerda took one touch in before curving a right-footed shot around Empire keeper Chris Toth, who lost despite a spectacular 27-save night.
On the other side of the floor, Pardo was tested less often but in more strenuous circumstances, defending a power play against at the end of the fourth quarter into overtime. His point-blank saves denying Robert Palmer in the fourth quarter and Gabriel Costa in sudden death kept the win away from Empire, The Strykers (0-2-1, 1 point) lost their eleventh straight match dating back to last season.
While Toth was making diving saves and daring challenges, Pardo was forced to keep his cool and maintain his focus, knowing one mistake could lose the match.
“(Toth) was a beast and put on a good show,” said Pardo, “At halftime, it was 1-1, and you had the feeling it was going to come down to the end. It’s fun.”
Playing the second half of a weekend home-and-home back-to-back to open the season, the quality of indoor soccer ground down to a defensive struggle between two tired sides. Brandon Escoto’s goal, a right-footed sneak inside the near post at 3:47 of the first quarter, gave the Sockers an early 1-0 lead. Justin Stinson answered in the second quarter at 3:17 when a blocked shot by the Sockers’ Guerrero Pino fell directly to the foot of Stinson at point-blank range.
Then, the scoring stopped. Over 46 minutes of game play elapsed before the next goal, but not for a want of trying. The second quarter in particular saw a flurry of back-and-forth action, where Toth was forced into three straight quality saves after Pardo made a tremendous combo save to begin the run. The Sockers out-shot the Strykers 35-19, including 12-4 in the fourth quarter and overtime.
And yet, it was a different defender’s dynamic steal and run that almost ended the Stryker’s skid. Uzi Tayou, brother of MASL all-time goals leader Franck Tayou, pounced on a loose ball in the final minute when Pino’s back was turned and there was a sliver of opportunity. Tayou surged in front and then was brought down by Pino for a blue card penalty that gave Empire the chance to end both their losing streak, and the Sockers’ remarkable run of avoiding a regulation loss. Instead, the Strykers could not generate a positive chance before the fourth quarter horn sounded, preserving San Diego’s streak of 43 straight matches without a regulation loss.
In overtime, the Strykers again hovered on the precipice of victory after being given a top-of-the-arc free kick four minutes into the frame. Franck Tayou cleverly paused before threading a soft shot just wide of the net, and the rebound came to Gabriel Costa, whose potential game-winner was blocked off the line by Cerda. Moments later, Cerda sprung his steal and goal, and the match was over.
The Sockers now get a week of rest and training before facing the first-place Mesquite Outlaws (2-0, 6 points) on Sunday at Pechanga Arena. It’s Sock Toss Night, with fans asked to bring a new and unused pair of socks or underwear to the match, to be donated to San Diego Rescue Mission. Those who donate will receive a new Sockers-branded pair of socks to bring home. Tickets are available by calling (866) 799-GOAL or visiting sdsockers.com.