Sockers defense locks down Outlaws 6-5
MESQUITE, TX—Kraig Chiles netted two goals with two assists as the San Diego Sockers regained first place in the MASL Western Division, edging the Texas Outlaws 6-5 at Mesquite Arena. San Diego (10-1, 29 points) overcame the absences of suspended goalkeeper Boris Pardo and midfielder Charlie Gonzalez, blocking 17 shots on defense and seeing a 19-save performance from backup keeper Xavier Snaer-Williams (3-0).
Tavoy Morgan, Cesar Cerda, Drew Ruggles and Brandon Escoto also scored for the Sockers, with Escoto’s team-leading fifteenth goal of the season proving to be the match-winner at 11:36 in the third quarter. Leading 6-3, the Sockers saw Texas (9-4-1, 27 points) dominate possession in the second half, out-shooting San Diego 21-10. MASL goals leader Luiz Morales netted his 25th and 26th of the season for the Outlaws, his second at 5:22 of the fourth quarter to narrow the score down to 6-5. San Diego defended almost three minutes against a six-attacker formation, holding possession in the final 26 seconds to secure the win and a 6-0 road record.
A physical match saw Texas commit 29 fouls and San Diego 24, but only six penalty cards were shown, a swift departure from the eighteen shown in San Diego’s last dramatic win at Tacoma. Tasked with almost twenty straight minutes of the Outlaws attacking down the stretch, defenders Luis “Peewee” Ortega (five blocks), Guerrero Pino (four blocks) and Mitchell Cardenas (four blocks) helped spearhead a team effort to limit scoring chances.
Morales made his presence felt early, using a powerful step-out from the wall to push Snaer-Williams toward the middle of his crease before pulling his shot back inside the near post for his 25th score of the season and a 1-0 Texas lead at 4:36. The Sockers answered back immediately, as rookie Juan Salazar--playing in the midfield for the injured Felipe Gonzalez--lifted a wall pass to Tavoy Morgan, who trapped the ball off his chest to his head for a point-blank goal just 21 seconds later and a 1-1 tie.
Coming off a hat trick performance in Tacoma, defender Cesar Cerda kept his offensive surge going with a step-over burst and left-footed rocket over goalkeeper Eduardo “Pollo” Cortes, cashing in Chiles’ post-outlet assist and earning a 2-1 lead at 10:54. The Sockers had a first quarter power play on Vini Dantas’ boarding penalty but failed to convert.
With under a minute left to play in the frame, San Diego got whistled for a superstructure violation when an outlet pass from the defensive zone struck the low-hanging scoreboard at Mesquite Arena. The Outlaws made hay with the opportunity, as David Ortiz slid a ball on right wing to Sebastian Mendez, whose shot was perfectly placed inside left post for the equalizer at 14:23. The match was tied 2-2 after fifteen minutes.
San Diego used skill and experience to build through a dominant 3-0 second quarter. Gifted a top-arc set piece on a defensive clearance violation by Texas, Chiles slid his feed to Drew
Ruggles on the wing, who used his left foot to lace an arcing rocket into the left-side netting for a 3-2 Sockers lead at :41.
The Sockers defense rose to the occasion throughout the second quarter, holding Morales and Ortiz out of dangerous scoring areas while Snaer-Williams made four saves. San Diego defended a power play when Cerda was shown a blue card for obstruction and even generated multiple short-handed chances. With both teams back to even strength, Luis “Peewee” Ortega raced into the attacking zone on right wall, cut his way to the middle of the field and then deftly back-heeled a pass to the interchanging Chiles, who smashed a right-footed volley past Cortes at 12:26 for a 4-2 advantage.
The Outlaws saw their second blue card when Morales was called for boarding with 1:21 left in the half, and the Sockers took advantage. Gabriel Costa, playing for the last time before undergoing wrist surgery back in San Diego this weekend, sent a ball through the middle that Chiles kept going with a turning one-touch left footed shot, carrying the ball on the ground through traffic and into the net at 14:18 for his tenth goal of the season. The Sockers went to the half leading 5-2.
Texas came out possession-minded to start the second half, and largely controlled the ball throughout the final 30 minutes. However, room was hard to come by through the Sockers’ defensive shape, and while Texas out-shot San Diego 14-6 in the third quarter, they were unable to score until the Sockers saw two of their best defenders in the penalty box at the same time. Forward Christian Gutierrez took a yellow card for dissent with 5:48 in the quarter, and eighteen seconds later Cardenas saw a blue card for a tripping penalty. The Outlaws converted their power play on a lovely pass from former Socker Andy Reyes, who lifted a ball from the top of the crease to the head of Vini Dantas at the back post for a point-blank header, narrowing the score to 5-3 at 11:01.
The Sockers once again answered back quickly, as they had done on each prior Texas goal. Just 35 seconds later, Leonardo de Oliveira—playing for the first time in five matches after a knee injury—spotted Brandon Escoto with a perfectly rolled back-post pass, and Escoto walked the ball into the net at 11:36 for his 15th goal of the year and a 6-3 lead.
Seemingly content to let Texas hold the ball looking for chances on attack in the fourth quarter, the Sockers saw the downside risk of the conservative strategy when Sebastian Mendez unleashed a rocket over a screened Snaer-Williams at 3:44 to make the score 6-4 San Diego. Less than two minutes later, Mendez’s wall-pass to the middle eluded the Sockers defense and found the toe of Morales, who settled and then smashed a shot from six feet out past the defense for a 6-5 score.
Little changed down the stretch, as the Sockers punted away the ball when they could touch it and otherwise had to hunker down and defend. A Jorge DeLeon strike from right wing hit left post, the juiciest chance on goal for Texas. Morales had his shot blocked by Cerda with 1:22 left, and Ortega drew a foul with 26 seconds left to finally regain possession. San Diego was able to get the ball downfield to a friendly toe and hold out the final seconds against relentless pressure, securing all three standings points and a two-point edge over the Outlaws for first place, with three matches in hand.
The Sockers now travel down the highway to Allen, Texas, where the Dallas Sidekicks will host the club on Saturday at 5:05pm PST. The match will be streamed live on Twitch. After a February 9 match in Chihuahua, San Diego will return home to face the Outlaws on February 13 and 15, with both matches kicking off at 7:35pm. Tickets are available by calling (866) 799-GOAL or visiting sdsockers.com.