SOCKERS CONTINUE ROAD TRIP WITH DATE IN DALLAS
The San Diego Sockers—presented by Kaiser Permanente San Diego—head to the Lone Star State for a two-match weekend, beginning with a Thursday night match against the Dallas Side-kicks at the Credit Union of Texas Event Center in Allen, Texas. The match is scheduled for a 5:05pm PST kickoff and will be streamed live on Twitch on channel @masl_soccer. The Sockers will face the Mesquite Outlaws on Saturday to wrap up the weekend trip.
The Sockers (11-1, 32 points) and Sidekicks (0-11-2, 2 points) are meeting one another for the third of four times this season. Dallas will wrap up the season series with a trip to San Diego for the Sockers’ next home match on March 4. In the modern PASL/MASL era, the Sockers are 11-3 against Dallas. In the MASL, San Diego has a 10-1 record against the Sidekicks, including ten straight wins. The last time Dallas beat San Diego was on December 12, 2015, a 9-7 win in Texas. Since then, the Sockers have won six straight at the Sidekicks’ home, as well as four in a row at Pechanga Arena.
In their two meetings earlier in the season, the Sockers and Sidekicks played an interstate back-to-back series on January 7 and 8. San Diego prevailed in Texas by a 9-4 score, led by Tavoy Morgan’s hat trick and assist. At home the next night, the Sockers scored six unanswered goals for an 8-2 victory. Christian Gutierrez paced the attack with two goals and an assist.
San Diego was rolling into their six-match road trip with a series of winning streaks, all of which were rubbed out by Empire’s 10-4 win over the Sockers to begin the trip last week. The club had won a MASL-record 30 straight regular season matches, 17 in a row on the road and 14 in a row overall (dating back to the playoffs). In addition, the club’s all-time point streak was set at 51, with the Sockers losing in regulation for the first time in 52 matches (47-1-4).
San Diego rebounded last Saturday to post a workmanlike 6-3 win in Tacoma. Boris Pardo was stellar once again in net, earning his 11th win with 13/16 saves, while contributing an assist to the offensive cause. The Sockers scored twice on the power play while building a 4-1 halftime lead. The Stars narrowed the advantage to 4-3 and pressed for a tie in the closing minutes, be-fore Christian Gutierrez netted back-to-back empty net goals to seal the result. The win restored the Sockers to first place in a massively competitive MASL Western Conference. A total of five points separates first place from fourth place. The points leader at the end of the season will receive the MASL Supporters Shield and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
Dallas (0-11-2, 2 points) has the worst record in the MASL, the worst goal differential (-54) and the most goals conceded in the league (112). The Sidekicks have allowed a minimum of eight goals in twelve of thirteen matches played, with a 5-4 OT loss to Mesquite on January 29 as the lone exception. 35-year-old rookie Alberto Rodriguez leads the club with 12 goals and 13 points in ten matches played. Veteran Jamie Lovegrove remains a consistent presence on the floor with (7-4=11) points in ten matches. The Sidekicks recently announced the signing of MLS veteran Román Torres, who could make his debut against San Diego on Thursday. Beleaguered goalkeeper Juan Gamboa has 126 saves with a .653 SV%, but an 0-7-2 record and 8.01 GAA.
Matches Since Last Loss: 1
Last Wednesday’s loss in Ontario hit reset for the San Diego Sockers on five different winning streaks. The club had won ten in a row to start the season, and fourteen straight in all competi-tions. The Sockers’ 17-match road winning streak was erased, as was the team’s MASL-record 30-match regular season winning streak. Lastly, the Sockers had not lost in regulation since March 13, 2021, also to the Fury/Strykers at Ontario Arena, a 6-4 result. As such, the team’s 47-0-4 “point streak” came to an end. San Diego now defends a one-match overall winning streak, and still has a 16-match home winning streak to protect when they return to Pechanga Arena in March.
Mr. 100: Boris Pardo 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 11-1 in twelve starts, having played all but 45 minutes total in net this season. He leads the MASL in wins (11), GAA (3.34) and ranks T-3rd in SV% (.747). All-time in MASL history, Pardo improved his career record to 102-23-7, two wins ahead of second-place William Vanzela. Pardo was the first MASL goal-keeper 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).
Mostly Dominant Defense
In the first ten matches of the 2022-23 campaign, the defense allowed 31 goals (3.10 per match). The 10-4 loss to Empire increased San Diego’s total goals allowed by almost 25%. Sockers defenders have combined to deny more shots than any other club in the MASL, helping San Diego out-shoot their opponents 344-228 (60-40%). The Sockers have allowed 20 shots or fewer in eight of twelve matches this season. In 2021-22, the Sockers were the only MASL club to allow fewer than 100 goals in the regular season, conceding 98, an average of 4.08 goals per match.
Our Leader? Balance.
The Sockers are a club without a singular focus of attack, instead able to beat you across all three lines. San Diego averages 6.5 goals per match, second only to Chihuahua (8.0), and the Savage benefit from a small-sided home floor where their goals average soars to 9.4-per-match. Empire leads the MASL with 103 goals, but with 16 matches complete, they average 6.4 goals-per-match. The Sockers sport seven players with 12+ points on the season, and ten players averaging 0.6 points-per-match or better.
Power Play Plugged Back In
The Sockers are surging after a slow start on the power play, with goals in 11-of-16 recent man-advantages (69%). The improvement has moved San Diego up to first in the conference and
second in the MASL in conversion percentage (14-for-30, 47%). The Sockers are second in the MASL with fourteen power play goals, one behind Mesquite. San Diego’s penalty kill is 13-for-18 at preventing goals (72%), best in the West and second only to Florida (19-for-24, 79%) 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, Morgan, Kraig Chiles and Charlie Gonzalez are tied with three power play goals each.
Charlie Golazo Breaks Out
Midfielder Juan Carlos “Charlie” Gonzalez led the Sockers attack on January 29 against Chihuahua, netting a first-half hat trick, then paced the club with a goal and two assists against Mesquite on February 3. Breaking out after a slow start to the season, Charlie is on a five-match goal scoring streak, scoring eight during the surge. Gonzalez ranks third in goals (11) and is third in points (17) on the club. Last season in his first campaign with the Sockers, Charlie set a career high with 39 points (23 goals, 16 assists) in 21 matches played.
Bull Roars on the Road
Coming off a career-best 39 goal/49 point season, forward Tavoy Morgan is once again leading the Sockers in goals (13) and points (20). Against Empire, Morgan was shut out on the road for the first time this season, netting only a single assist. In five other road matches, Morgan has eleven goals, including three hat tricks. At home, Tavoy has been held to two goals and three assists in six matches. Morgan scored a hat trick in his only other visit to Dallas this season.
Farber Flourishes in Limited Role
Veteran midfielder Brian Farber struggled with injury all last season and posted the first-ever scoreless line of his career, netting zero points in four matches. Combined with an adversity-filled COVID season, Farber had only one goal in eleven matches coming into this season, and experienced difficulty drawing into the lineup. However, in limited work the 40-year-old has more than shown his worth, scoring a goal in each of his three appearances and fashioning a 4-0=4 score-line so far.
Leo the Pass Master
Brazilian midfielder Leonardo de Oliveira led the MASL with 33 assists last season, 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 111 goals and 253 points in his indoor career, an average of 1.90 points-per-match. His 142 career assists are the fourth-most in MASL history. Leo picked up a season-high three assists against Kansas City, and leads the club with twelve assists, three off the league lead (John Sosa, 18).
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 defen-sive 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. Nine of Gutierrez’s twelve goals have been scored in the fourth quarter this season. In San Diego’s last match, 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 12 goals and fifth with 14 points.
Chiles Seeks a Return to Form
Sockers captain Kraig Chiles is the franchise’s all-time leader in goals (445) and points (645), and is on the long approach to 400 points in the MASL (242-124=366 career, fourth-most). Chiles has been shut out in each of his last two matches, a rare scoring drought: it’s only the second time in his past 46 MASL matches that Chiles has failed to score in back-to-back outings. The Sockers are hoping for a bounce-back similar to earlier this season in Harrisburg, when Chiles was shut out on Saturday night and came back with his top-scoring match of the season the next day, netting two goals with three assists.
Electric Escoto Unplugged After Review
Sockers midfielder and Tijuana native Brandon Escoto was issued a two-match suspension by the MASL on Tuesday morning, after the league engaged in film review of a play in which he was tussled up with Empire’s Gabriel Costa. The suspension will keep Escoto off this weekend’s road trip. “Churras” has at least one point in all ten matches he has played this season. A prolific and dangerous scorer, Brandon has (8-6=14) points in ten matches played. In his career, Es-coto averages almost a goal-per-match, with 135 goals scored in 141 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. Escoto added five goals and three assists in the playoffs, including the go-ahead goal in Game One of the Ron Newman Cup Finals. Escoto scored two goals in the Game Two Finals clincher.
More Roster Issues
Defender Cesar Cerda will serve a one-match suspension on Thursday for a play the previous Wednesday against Empire, when both he and Gabriel Costa drew blue cards for contact above the shoulder. The league upgraded Cerda to a one-match suspension upon review. Defender Ismael Rojo is expected to take his place on Thursday. Midfielder Hiram "Pollo” Ruiz has been dogged by lower body injuries and is not on the Texas trip. Midfielder Felipe Gonzalez suffered a lower-body injury in practice on Tuesday and is questionable for selection. Midfielders Brian Farber and Sean Callahan have returned to health and full practice, and are both on the trip.
Team captain Kraig Chiles will miss Thursday’s match due to coaching conflicts, but should be back in the lineup on Saturday in Mesquite.