San Diego Takes Game One

by Jonathan Greene

MILWAUKEE, WI—The Sockers have proven themselves to be more than comfortable on the road, and the opening match of the 2022 Ron Newman Cup playoffs was no different. 

Kraig Chiles had two goals and an assist, Leonardo de Oliveira had two assists and a goal, and Boris Pardo anchored a dominant defensive effort with 17 saves as the Sockers hammered the Milwaukee Wave 9-2 on Thursday evening at UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena in Milwaukee. The Sockers lead the best-of-3 series 1-0, with the second match set for Sunday evening in San Diego.

The Sockers extended their overall win streak to 21 games, improving to 13-0 on the road this season, and 1-0 in the playoffs. Tavoy Morgan added a pair of goals, Charlie Gonzalez a goal and assist, and San Diego field players combined to block eighteen shots, including six for Cesar Cerda.

Determined to overcome their placement as the eighth seed in the MASL playoff bracket, the Wave put together a dominant first quarter of possession, out-shooting the Sockers 11-2. Their effort would be unrewarded due to San Diego’s defensive discipline. Ze Roberto blocked a possible goal five minutes into the quarter, Boris Pardo was 5-for-5 on saves, and Juan Manuel Rojo scrambled to kick a possible goal off the line with an all-out play.

The Sockers got only one shot on goal in the quarter, but it was all they needed. Consecutive cross passes freed up Tavoy Morgan in the middle, and Brandon Escoto’s centering feed found the target for a one-time goal and a 1-0 lead at 3:43. San Diego nursed the advantage into the quarter break.

The Sockers have been opportunistic all season, and deadly on set pieces and power plays with Kraig Chiles in the lineup. All these traits came to the fore in a remarkable second quarter that saw San Diego repel a Milwaukee power play (achieved after a replay challenge by Wave head coach Guilano Oliviero), and net goals on the counter, set-piece, and power play.

Granted a free kick after a Milwaukee foul at the yellow line straightaway, Charlie Gonzalez fed a simple diagonal pass to Chiles, who smashed his shot into the upper-right corner at 2:50 for his first goal of the playoffs and a 2-0 lead.

Two minutes later on the counter, Sean Callahan’s cross-field pass found Christian Gutierrez unmarked on the right wing. Gutierrez took a touch to the middle and found a defender in his way, then went to his off foot—the left—perfectly hammering a shot into the upper-left corner to make it 3-0 Sockers at 4:54.

San Diego’s power play came after a kicking blue card issued to Milwaukee’s Jonnathan Pachar with 4:59 in the quarter. After working the ball around the perimeter, the Sockers found Leonardo de Oliveira with space on right wing. He squared a pass to Chiles who smashed his volley into the identical upper-right corner as his first, this shot passing through a hole in the net and out into the arena. Despite being out-shot 19-6 in the opening half, the Sockers enjoyed a 4-0 lead.

The Wave pulled one back to start the third quarter, as Marcio Leite’s precise wing shot went off the hands of Pardo and to the back post, where Mario Alvarez was waiting to clean things up and get the home crowd excited in Milwaukee at 2:56, making the score 4-1.

Milwaukee had a chance for more midway through the frame after a double-team steal on the bench wall, but Javier Steinwascher first saw his shot stopped by Pardo, and then his skipping second-chance saved off the line by a brilliant leaping clearance from 42-year-old Ze Roberto, playing in his final season with the Sockers.

Things started to unravel for Milwaukee when Luan Oliveira, attempting to head a ball back to his keeper Joey Kapinos from the offensive corner, instead made his header a bit too good, placing it off the crossbar and in at 10:43 of the third quarter. Tavoy Morgan, who had headed the ball into the corner, was credited for his second goal of the night to make it 5-1.

San Diego then marked on consecutive set pieces. Awarded a top-arc free-kick after a Milwaukee defensive clearance, Charlie Gonzalez threaded his shot through a four-man wall, the ball caroming off a Wave leg and into the net at 11:56, making the score 6-1. Then on a corner kick, it was a quick pass from Charlie to Chiles on the right wing, who fed Leo at the top of the key for a blast crossbar-down-and-in at 13:09. San Diego held a 7-1 lead after 45 minutes.

The Wave’s Andre Hayne was shown a blue card for tripping with 17 seconds remaining in the third quarter, and the Sockers cashed it in early in the fourth, with Leo’s cross-field pass connecting with the head of Brandon Escoto for a beautiful power-play goal at 1:05 and an 8-1 lead. Milwaukee then went to six attackers, and Juan Manuel Rojo intricately wove through defenders at close range to net his first of the playoffs at 4:38 for a 9-1 advantage.

Milwaukee’s Ian Bennett, the MASL’s leading goal scorer, extended his goals streak to 29 consecutive games, but did so with a meaningless power-play goal in the game’s final minute down 9-1.

The Sockers and Wave now travel back to San Diego for the second match of the series, set for a 5:05pm kickoff from Pechanga Arena. If the Wave were to win, the two clubs would play a 15-minute knockout match to determine the series winner. Tickets are available by visiting or by calling (866) 799-GOAL.