ROAD WOES AND UH-OHS; Sockers lose 6-5 in Mesquite
MESQUITE, TX—The Sockers lost a match on Saturday night, and might have lost more.
Sebastian Mendez scored a pair of goals, a Sockers fourth-quarter go-ahead score was reversed on replay, and the Mesquite Outlaws held on for a 6-5 win over the San Diego Sockers at Mesquite Arena. The Sockers (12-2, 35 points) fell to 2-2 on their current road trip.
The match was marred by a heated argument on the floor after the final whistle, which began with Mesquite’s Pablo de Silva challenging San Diego’s Tavoy Morgan near the benches and saw both teams come together, including coaches and staff. The Sockers’ Gerardo Jurado was shown a red card. Moments later, a Mesquite staffer grabbed and tried to restrain the Sockers’ Mitchell Cardenas, and wound up pulled to the ground in a scrum. The league is in the process of reviewing the film for further discipline.
With all this as a backdrop, the loss set the stage for a showdown next weekend in Mexico where the Sockers will be short-handed once again. The second-place Chihuahua Savage, just three points behind San Diego in the standings, have a match in hand on Sunday in Tacoma in which a regulation win would pull them even at 35 points. Next Friday, the two teams meet for the final time this season in Mexico, where the Savage are 14-1-3 all-time.
The Sockers’ recent poor run of form has had a common thread: poor second-half performances. San Diego has been outscored 14-7 in the second halves of the four matches on their current road trip, including 4-3 on Saturday night in Mesquite. The Outlaws (10-3-2, 30 points) scored the first two goals of the second half, on an Erik Macias wing strike and an own goal, scored off the leg of the Sockers’ Cesar Cerda. A 2-2 halftime score became 4-2 Outlaws.
The Sockers answered back and for a moment seemed to have the match in their grasp. Ismael Rojo and Felipe Gonzalez connected on a header-to-header goal at 14:07 of the third quarter to claw a goal back at 4-3, ending a 59-minute third quarter scoreless streak. Leonardo de Oliveira finished a wicked shot off a set piece at 1:13 of the fourth quarter for a 4-4 tie, and as he celebrated, Mesquite keeper Eduardo “Pollo” Cortes punted the ball out of play for a yellow card penalty. Cortes had to go sit in the penalty box for five minutes plus the next dead ball whistle.
San Diego had a chance to rally against Outlaws backup keeper Juan Lujano, and when de Oliveira slammed home a rebound shot one minute later, the Sockers had a 5-4 lead and Leo was leaping in the air for a second vicious celebration. Then, Tatu threw his challenge flag, asserting a foul occurred during the build-up toward goal. Referees agreed upon video review, issuing a common foul to Charlie Gonzalez at midfield several seconds before the goal was scored, and wiping out the go-ahead score.
On the next referee’s whistle, the game turned again. With Mesquite on the attack, Ismael Rojo was called for a foul along the wall for contact on the Outlaws’ David Ortiz. The Sockers players protested to the ref, and while their eyes were up, Ortiz spotted the ball for restart and sent it quickly to Mendez in the crease for an easy goal. 5-4 Sockers? Nope, 5-4 Mesquite.
Lucas Ramalho touched home the rebound of an Outlaws shot at 6:12 to make it 6-4. Christian Gutierrez got one back on a wall assist from Luis “Peewee” Ortega at 7:12 to narrow the gap to its final margin. The Sockers went to a sixth attacker in the final 2:51 but were unable to generate an equalizer or even another shot on goal. A last-second empty netter was waved off for scoring just after the whistle, and then quickly forgotten when everything broke loose.
The first half saw Tavoy Morgan net twice for the Sockers, matched by Andy Reyes and Mendez for Mesquite.
The six-match road trip concludes with what could be the toughest leg of the three, with back-to-back matches in Mexico next weekend. The Chihuahua showdown is on Friday, followed by a Sunday afternoon affair in Monterrey. Both matches will be carried live with English-language coverage on the Sockers’ Twitch channel @sandiegosockers. The club returns home on March 4 to face the Dallas Sidekicks on Alumni Night. Tickets are available by calling (866) 799-GOAL or visiting sdsockers.com.