by San Diego Sockers

The San Diego Sockers—presented by Kaiser Permanente San Diego—wrap up their month-long road trip with the sixth and final stop, a Sunday afternoon showdown against the Monterrey Flash, from Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico. The match is scheduled for a 1:35pm PST kickoff from Arena Monterrey, and will be streamed live on Twitch on channel @masl_soccer2, with an English-language simulcast on channel @sandiegosockers.

The Sockers (13-2, 38 points) and Flash (7-5-2, 20 points) meet for the first of three occasions this season, all coming in the latter stages of the MASL season. Monterrey will visit San Diego on March 17, and the Sockers return to Nuevo Leon on Sunday, March 26 to conclude the series. The two clubs are meeting for the first time since February of 2020. Monterrey took the last two seasons off during the COVID pandemic. San Diego is 1-3 all-time at Arena Monterrey, the lone win coming on December 28, 2018, a 7-6 overtime result.

San Diego is wrapping up their longest road trip of the season, and is looking to make it an extremely productive trip with another positive result. The Sockers are 3-2 on the trip so far, with wins in Tacoma, Dallas, and Friday in Chihuahua. San Diego has dropped results at Ontario and Mesquite. The Sockers are 7-2 on the road this season, and after Sunday, will have only two road matches remaining against six home matches the rest of the regular season.

On Friday night, the Sockers went into one of the league’s toughest home venues, becoming only the second club to emerge from Chihuahua with a regulation victory. The 9-8 result was hard-earned, as the Sockers played severely short-handed, and spotted the homestanding Savage an early 2-0 lead. San Diego rallied with nine goals in forty minutes, building out to a 9-4 advantage. The Sockers had to hold on for dear life in an 0-4 fourth quarter that saw Chihuahua trim a five-goal lead down to a single score. Kraig Chiles paced the San Diego attack with a hat trick and assist, while Leonardo de Oliveira added a goal and two assists.

The Sockers will be at their most short-handed this weekend, as the combination of suspensions and travel restrictions will leave San Diego without a number of their top players. The MASL announced suspensions for forward Tavoy Morgan (three games), defender Mitchell Cardenas (two games) and midfielder Gerardo Jurado (one game) after the Mesquite match for a post-match skirmish, with none of the three making the trip. In addition, top defender Guerrero Pino and #3 scorer Charlie Gonzalez are unable to travel to Mexico. On top of everything else, veterans Brian Farber and Sean Callahan cannot fill in due to work restrictions. San Diego called up three players in order to fill out the roster.

Monterrey (7-5-2, 20 points) has struggled to regain their championship-contending form after two seasons away from the MASL. The Flash currently occupy the fifth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, just one point ahead of sixth-place Tacoma. Monterrey has lost three straight matches, and has seen a mid-season coaching change, with Armando Teran taking over for Mariano Bollella. “El Quick”, Luis Ángel Mendoza, leads Monterrey with 11 goals and 19 points in 13 matches played. Daniel Villela has added 11 goals and 14 points. Veteran Diego Reynoso and rookie Christian Hernandez have split time in net. Hernandez leads in wins (4), while Reynoso has the edge in GAA (4.60) and SV% (.726%).


Chiles Returns to Form

Sockers captain Kraig Chiles is the franchise’s all-time leader in goals (448) and points (649), and is on the long approach to 400 points in the MASL (245-125=370 career, fourth-most). After tying the longest scoring drought of his career with three straight matches without a goal or assist, Chiles rallied when the team needed him most on Friday, making up for the absence of Tavoy Morgan with a hat trick and assist. Chiles now ranks fourth on the club with 12 goals and 19 points.

Road Reversal

Last season, the Sockers completed their second undefeated road schedule in MASL competition, and carried a 17-match road winning streak into the start of their six-match road trip this month. An emphatic 10-4 loss in Ontario on February 8 set the tone for a trip that has so far seen San Diego struggle in parts of all five matches despite a 3-2 record. The Sockers needed two empty-net goals to hold off Tacoma 6-3 on February 11, and then were shut out in the second half by the league’s only winless team, Dallas, in a 7-4 win. The check came due on Saturday, February 18 in a 6-5 loss at Mesquite where San Diego couldn’t find the equalizer late. In Chihuahua, a dominant 9-4 lead after three quarters turned into a 9-8 nail-biter. After finishing the Monterrey match, the Sockers will only play on the road twice more in the regular season.

Mr. 100: Boris Pardo Still on MVP Track

The defending MASL Elite VI goalkeeper and MASL Goalkeeper of the Year, 38-year-old Boris Pardo has maintained his all-league form in 2022-23. Pardo is 13-2 in fifteen starts, having played all but 60 minutes total in net this season. He leads the MASL in wins (13), GAA (3.92) and ranks seventh in SV% (.712). All-time in MASL history, Pardo improved his career record to 104-24-7, three wins ahead of second-place William Vanzela. Pardo was the first MASL goalkeeper to reach the 100-win plateau, a feat matched by Vanzela last weekend. In 2021-22, Pardo led the MASL in wins (19-0-1 record) and goals-against average (4.20 GAA), while his .731 save percentage was second in the league. Pardo was even better in the playoffs, starting all seven matches and posting a 6-0-1 record, 3.36 GAA and .767 SV%. In 2018-19, Pardo won his first Goalkeeper of the Year award, winning a league-record 22 games in net (22-1 record).

Suspensions and Absences

The Sockers are without top-scoring forward Tavoy Morgan, who was given a three-match suspension after the Mesquite contest. Top defender Mitchell Cardenas (two matches) and Gerardo Jurado (one match) were also suspended. In addition, defender Guerrero Pino, who teams with Cardenas as the club’s on-ball defending duo, is unable to travel to Mexico and will not be on the trip. He’s joined by the club’s third-leading scorer, Charlie Gonzalez, who also cannot travel to Mexico. Finally, veteran utility player Brian Farber and midfielder Sean Callahan are unable to travel due to work conflicts. All told, the Sockers will be missing a full starting lineup of key players for these matches.

Power Play Plugged Back In

The Sockers are surging after a slow start on the power play, with goals in 13-of-19 recent man-advantages (68%). The improvement has moved San Diego up to second in the MASL in conversion percentage (16-for-32, 50%). The Sockers are one behind Milwaukee for the most power play goals in the league (16). San Diego’s penalty kill is 15-for-23 at preventing goals (65%), second-best in the West (Monterrey, .731) and third to Florida (21-for-26, 81%) in the league. The Sockers are tied for the MASL lead with two short-handed goals. Last year, San Diego led the MASL in both power play efficiency (27-for-45, 60%) and penalty killing efficiency (16-for-22, 73%) during the 2021-22 season. Tavoy Morgan led the MASL with nine power play goals and the club set an all-time franchise record with a six-for-six power play performance on February 12 against the Tacoma Stars. In 2022-23, Charlie Gonzalez leads the club with four power play goals.

Leo the Pass Master

Brazilian midfielder Leonardo de Oliveira picked up two more assists against Chihuahua, moving into the MASL lead in the category with 17 (John Sosa, KC, 16). Last season, “Leo” led the MASL with 33 assists, earning the league’s first-ever “Pass Master” award. Leo’s total was six higher than second-place finisher Nick Perera. Combined with 13 goals on the season, de Oliveira’s 46 points scored ranked tied for fifth in the league. Leo added his 100th career MASL goal during the season, and has 113 goals and 260 points in his indoor career, an average of 1.90 points-per-match. His 147 career assists are the fifth-most in MASL history.

Golden Gutierrez

Sockers forward Christian Gutierrez has emerged over the past three seasons as one of the preeminent two-way forwards in the MASL. In addition to being tasked with patrolling the defensive side of the floor, Gutierrez is a potent counter-attack striker who often opens up matches late in the fourth quarter, especially against the empty net. Ten of Gutierrez’s fifteen goals have been scored in the fourth quarter this season. In San Diego’s recent match against Tacoma, Gutierrez scored into the empty net against the six-attacker formation twice in the final two minutes, securing the victory. On the season, Gutierrez is second on the club with 15 goals and fourth with 17 points.

Electric Escoto Must Pick up the Slack

Sockers midfielder and Tijuana native Brandon Escoto was issued a two-match suspension by the MASL which kept him out of the Texas portion of the road trip. Now back, Escoto will need to be a focus of the San Diego attack this weekend. “Churras” has at least one point in all eleven matches he has played this season. A prolific and dangerous scorer, Brandon has (8-8=16) points in eleven matches played. In his career, Escoto averages almost a goal-per-match, with 135 goals scored in 142 matches played. Escoto was one of the most balanced attackers in the MASL in 2021-22, finishing in the MASL’s top-10 in both goals and assists with (21-23=44) points, good for T-7th in the league.

New Guys Make an Impact

Of the three signees who traveled with San Diego to Mexico this weekend, two started on Friday and one made a major impact. Forward Irvin Mojica scored a pair of goals in his MASL debut, and the Sockers needed both of them to escape Chihuahua with a 9-8 victory. Luis Perez played in the midfield for San Diego, collecting one foul. On Thursday, the Sockers announced the signing of three new players to bolster the lineup for the weekend. San Diego signed free agent Horacio Gutierrez, a player who most recently trained with the El Paso Locomotive (USL Championship), and played a season with the NISL’s Fayetteville Fury, winning the league title. Promoted from Sockers-2 was midfielder Luis Perez, who had two goals in his only MASL2 appearance this season. Signed from MASL2’s Atletico Baja side, forward Irwin Mojica had ten goals and two assists in five games for the Tijuana-based franchise. All three players are available for selection this weekend.

Player Highlights

Juan Manuel Rojo 

Scored his fifth goal on Friday, leading all Sockers defenders

Felipe Gonzalez

(6-7=13) points ranks seventh on the club

 Luis “Peewee” Ortega

Collected two assists in Friday’s win at Chihuahua