San Diego Sockers match preview at Texas

by San Diego Sockers

The San Diego Sockers—presented by Kaiser Permanente San Diego—continue a four-match road trip with the first of two contests this week in the state of Texas, taking on the Texas Outlaws on Thursday evening. The match is set for a 5:05pm kickoff and will be streamed live on Twitch channel @masl_soccer.
The Sockers (9-1, 26 points), owners of the best record in MASL history all-time at 158-32-5, have won the first two MASL Supporters Shields, awarded to the club with the league’s best regular season record. Their 9-1 record is the best through ten matches in the West, but trails 13-0 Monterrey in the East. San Diego is 54-3-1 over the last two+ regular seasons. 
The Sockers and Outlaws are meeting for the first of three times this season. The season series between the two clubs will be completed in San Diego’s next five matches, due to the rescheduling of the January 7 match to February 13 after a water main break at Pechanga Arena. Home field has dominated the all-time regular season matchup, with the Sockers 3-0 at home and 0-2 at Mesquite Arena. San Diego is 2-0 against the Outlaws in the playoffs including a 7-1 win in Mesquite. 
Last weekend tested the Sockers on many levels, as the club played their third interstate back-to-back in ten matches. On Saturday night, San Diego hosted St. Louis Ambush at Pechanga Arena, cruising to an 8-2 victory. Seven different Sockers scored in a clinical 7-1 first-half. Kraig Chiles completed a brace in a second half that was mostly seen as obligatory before both teams traveled for another match the next night. 
On Sunday morning, the club flew up the coast to Tacoma for a fifth meeting in ten matches between the Sockers and Stars. Tensions were high from the beginning as the Stars pushed for their first win all year against San Diego. After an early 1-0 lead, the Sockers saw the Stars rally, building a 6-3 lead in the third quarter. Cesar Cerda’s short-handed goal pulled the Sockers within two after three quarters. A wild fourth quarter featured twelve penalty cards shown to both teams, including three red cards. Despite being short-handed, the Sockers pulled their keeper to get back to even strength and scored twice in the final three minutes to tie the score 7-7. San Diego killed a penalty early in overtime before Tavoy Morgan’s goal at 2:24 of the extra period gave the Sockers an improbable 8-7 victory. The victory came at a heavy cost, as both MASL Goalkeeper of the Year Boris Pardo and top-scoring midfielder Charlie Gonzalez will be suspended for the Texas match due to red cards.
Texas (9-3-1, 27 points) is technically a point ahead of the Sockers in the Western Division, but San Diego has three matches in hand on the Outlaws. Texas is on a four-match winning streak and has won eight of nine, with their only loss a one-goal setback to the 13-0 Monterrey Flash. The Outlaws’ 103 goals pace the West and rank third in the MASL, and the club’s 7.9 goals-per-match outpaces San Diego’s 7.5. Texas allows 6.5 goals-per-match to San Diego’s 4.9. the Outlaws are led by the “MOM line” of Luiz Morales, David Ortiz and Sebastian Mendez. Paced by Morales’ MASL-leading 24 goals and 31 points, the trio has combined for (49-29=78) points this season. Former Blast and Stars forward Vini Dantas ranks second on the club with 19 goals. Eduardo “Pollo” Cortes is 7-1 in net with a 5.04 GAA and .756 SV%. Texas is 4-2 at home.
Excellence is our Baseline
The San Diego Sockers boast an MASL-best 158-32-5 record over the ten-year history of the league. San Diego has won consecutive MASL Supporters Shields, awarded to the club with the best regular season record in the league. The Sockers finished 22-2 in 2022-23, five wins ahead of Chihuahua (17) for the highest mark. The Sockers have a record of 54-3-1 the past two+ seasons, and saw a 16-match regular season winning streak snapped on January 14 against the Savage. 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.  
The Grand Old Arena is Our Fortress
The Sockers have also been the most dominant home team in MASL history, with an 86-7-1 all-time record. San Diego saw its 25-match regular season home winning streak end on January 14. The club is 48-3-1 at home over the past four+ seasons. 
Pretty Good on the Road, Too
San Diego is 5-0 on the season away. The Sockers’ 10-2 road record in the 2022-23 season was easily the best in the MASL. Chihuahua was second-best at 7-5. The Sockers had a 17-match regular season road winning streak snapped in Ontario on February 8, part of a 4-2 road trip that included regulation wins in Chihuahua and Monterrey. San Diego was the only club in the MASL to pull all the available points out of their road matches in Mexico last season, getting nine of a possible nine out of Monterrey and Chihuahua.  
Pardo and Charlie Seeing Red
The Sockers will be without the services of all-MASL goalkeeper Boris Pardo for the remainder of their road trip, as the league handed down a three-match suspension to the 39-year-old after he was shown a red card for verbally abusing a referee on Sunday. In addition to the standard one-match suspension for a red, Pardo saw two matches added for “conduct detrimental to the league”. In addition, midfielder Charlie Gonzalez will miss Thursday’s match at Texas due to the standard one-match red card suspension after he and Tacoma’s Raphael Cox were simultaneously ejected for a fourth quarter scuffle. 
Escoto En Su Bicicleta 
Sockers midfielder Brandon Escoto has always had a flair for the dramatic, and showed it again on Sunday 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 leads the Sockers with fourteen goals and ranks fourth with 19 points on the season. 
Return of Mustache Power? Chiles Heating Up
Sockers captain Kraig Chiles is in his fifteenth season with the Sockers, ranking as the franchise’s all-time leader in goals (465) and points (683), and with an assist against Empire last Wednesday, reached 400 points in the MASL (262-142=404 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 two weeks ago.) Last season, 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 immediately responded with three goals and an assist last weekend.
Terrifc Tavoy
Forward Tavoy Morgan ranks second on the Sockers with thirteen goals and owns the club lead with (13=9=22) points. Morgan is on a six-match goal scoring streak, including the OT match-winner on Sunday at Tacoma, and has at least one point in every match this season. Morgan has scored a brace in both of his two trips to Mesquite Arena, including the playoffs. When the clubs met last season in Mesquite on February 18, controversy followed as a Texas off-field official attempted to grab and restrain Morgan from behind during a scuffle between the two teams. As Tavoy tried to extricate himself from the surprise behind-the-back grab, his arm swung and the league suspended him for three matches. 
Time for Xavier to Step Up
With Boris Pardo serving a three-match suspension, the starting duties in the cage will fall to Xavier Snaer-Williams. “X-Man”, should he start and finish each of the next three matches, will pass his season high for minutes in the MASL (he is at 85:11 this season, career-high is 205:17 in 2021-22). Snaer-Williams earned the win on Sunday in relief of Pardo, and is 2-0 in five matches (one start) this season, with a 5.64 GAA and .750 SV%. The last time Snaer-Williams was asked to step in for a weekend due to a Pardo suspension, he earned MASL Goalkeeper of the Week, allowing just six goals in two matches against Tacoma and UCFC while stopping 23-of-29 shots (.793 SV%). 
Gabi Goal
In his second MASL season, midfielder Gabriel Costa has proven himself to be a consistent high scorer, averaging over two points per match. Costa picked up two assists on Sunday in Tacoma after a team-best goal and two assists vs. St. Louis on Saturday. Costa’s (7-13=20) points are tied for second on the Sockers and his 13 assists lead the club. Having recently suffered a broken wrist, Costa played the weekend and will play Thursday with a cast, then will leave the club for surgery to repair the joint. Costa is expected to miss six weeks but return in time for the Ron Newman Cup playoffs.
Player Highlights
Leonardo de Oliveira
(3-9=12) points in five matches, returns to the lineup Thursday after five-match absence (knee)
Cesar Cerda
Hat trick + assist on Sunday, leads MASL with two short-handed goals
Guerrero Pino
Club blocked shots leader with 19