Sockers Edge Strykers in Shootout

ONTARIO, CA - Boris Pardo stopped all three shootout attempts he faced and Kraig Chiles’ lone shootout goal held up, as the San Diego Sockers outlasted the Empire Strykers 9-8 in an overtime shootout Sunday night at Toyota Arena. Chiles netted two goals with two assists in the match, giving him 698 points in his career, while Brandon Escoto matched his scoring output with two goals and two assists.
Leading 8-6 after three quarters, the Sockers saw Empire come back with goals at 9:54 and 14:04 of the fourth quarter to equalize. After a tense and scoreless ten-minute overtime, a three-round shootout was played to settle the match. Chiles scored to start round one, followed by a Pardo save against Strykers midfielder Justin Stinson. Brandon Escoto hit the right post with his second-round attempt, but Pardo rose up again, forcing Marco Fabián (two goals) to shoot wide. Cesar Cerda was saved by Empire keeper Brian Orozco in round three, but Pardo blocked Adam James’ attempt to complete the perfect shootout and secure the victory. 
“Those guys had so much fight, everyone did their job so it was time to do mine,” said Pardo, who had 12 saves en route to his tenth victory (10-1), “It was an all-around team effort to secure the win.”
Badly short-handed and injury-riddled to start the night with four top scorers missing, the Sockers (14-2, 40 points) took injuries in-match to defenders Drew Ruggles and Luis “Peewee” Ortega, thinning the ranks even further. By the end of the night, San Diego was down to one substitute among two defender positions, with most players exhausted by fatigue.
“It was a really tough second half for the group, a lot of defending, and we’re honestly a little bit banged up,” said Chiles, who is two points away from 700 in his career, “This was one of the best atmospheres we’ve been in all year, and they got a good show.”
“We lost four guys during the night and we were down to about ten guys,” said head coach Phil Salvagio, “We always find a way to pull through, but this was a hard one.”
The Sockers got their first quarter off to a fast start, netting twice in the first five minutes. Brandon Escoto bagged them both, first scoring on a shot from outside that deflected over the keeper Brian Orozco, then on a straightaway volley off Chiles’ backheel assist, trapping a ball out of the air at 4:33. Just seconds later, a forward pass from Drew Ruggles up the left wall found Juan Gonzalez all alone, and he ripped a low shot inside left post for a 3-0 lead at 5:25. 
With a crowd filled with youngsters cheering them on, the Strykers got a comeback started when Marco Fabián knocked in his 19th goal of the season on a right-to-left shot from the right wing, making it 3-1 at 6:25. San Diego answered back immediately, this time with Escoto feeding Chiles for a back-post score at 6:53, restoring a three-goal lead at 4-1. 
When Chiles teed up Felipé Gonzalez up the middle for his eighth goal of the year, San Diego enjoyed a 5-1 advantage just 11:03 into the match. Empire would strike back, as Fabián was spotted inside the crease on an Adam Jones centering pass, slotting his 20th of the season to make it 5-2 just 22 seconds later. The Sockers would take a 5-2 lead after 15 minutes. 
The second quarter saw the Strykers slow the match down and inch closer. Justin Stinson’s shot off the wall glass caromed out to the left wing, where James was running in to head home a goal at 3:28, pulling Empire within two at 5-3. 
San Diego had a power play that came up empty when Escoto’s header at the back post pinballed off James and toward the goal line, but Orozco was able to pull it back 75% of the way across the goal line. The play was originally ruled a goal but overturned on video review. Nonetheless, the Sockers would find a goal before halftime. With time running out, Escoto stole an attempted clearance pass by Empire up the middle and pushed 2-v-1 on the attack. His teammate was Chiles, who spaced himself out to right-wing, dribbled the keeper, and pushed home his 16th goal of the season, and career point #698, at 14:15. San Diego took a 6-3 lead into the locker room at halftime.
Hoping for a quick start to cement the win, the Sockers instead conceded three straight goals to the Strykers in the third quarter. Ex-Socker Gerardo Jurado netted a brace, sandwiched around an Alan Perez goal, tying the match 6-6 at 8:33 of the third quarter. The Sockers had an instant answer, as a long ball into the Empire crease was guided down by Mitchell Cardenas and swept across to rookie forward Juan Salazar, who punched in the go-ahead score at 8:47 for a 7-6 San Diego lead, pumping his arms to wild boos from the crowd of 4,203. 
Two minutes later, Christian Gutierrez and Cesar Cerda teamed up on a counter-attack, with Cerda slotting his eighth goal of the season at 10:51, building out an 8-6 advantage. However, injuries and fatigue were piling up for the Sockers, as well as fouls. With both Maxwell Rodriguez and Escoto sitting on three fouls for the half (a fourth is an automatic power play), Salvagio shrank his bench even further, leading to only one substitute for two defender positions.
“We emptied the tank,” said Pardo.
With stern defending and positioning, the Sockers held the 8-6 lead for almost ten minutes of the fourth quarter, before Empire rookie Riley Urie intercepted a ball at midfield and weaved his way through three tired defenders up the floor, stepping to his right for a half-volley goal at 9:54 to draw Empire within one. With 4:17 remaining, Strykers head coach Paul Wright called a timeout to bring on a sixth attacker, putting San Diego into an even deeper defensive crouch.
The strategy succeeded, though Cerda had a chance from midfield to score into an empty net, sending his shot high and wide. In the final minute, Stinson dug an up-field pass out of the corner and bounced a ball between two Sockers defenders to Alan Perez, who slotted his second goal of the match with just 56 seconds remaining to tie the score 8-8. 
In the shootout, Pardo relied on his preparation and veteran savvy to read the feet of the Empire attackers. 
“It wasn’t that hard to read them,” said a winking Pardo, “Just reading their feet and their positioning, that’s all I’m gonna say.”
Having pulled eight-of-nine possible points out of the grueling week, the Sockers now own a lead of thirteen points over second-place Texas (with two matches in hand) and fourteen over third-place Chihuahua (the Savage have two matches in hand). San Diego will enjoy a much-needed week of rest and recovery before taking on the Kansas City Comets on Sunday night at Pechanga Arena. Tickets are available for “Country Night” by calling (866) 799-GOAL or visiting