Sockers fall behind early, then roll past Wave 11-5
SAN DIEGO—Four different Sockers had three-point matches as San Diego rallied from a first quarter 2-0 deficit to post an 11-5 win over the Eastern Division-leading Milwaukee Wave Thursday night at Pechanga Arena. The Sockers (21-2, 60 points) won their ninth in a row and 21st straight at home, scoring all eleven goals in the final three quarters.
“Going down 2-nothing at home isn’t ideal, but honestly it’s nice to play someone outside our bubble,” said captain Kraig Chiles, who had a goal and two assists.
Tavoy Morgan scored a hat trick for the Sockers, who improved to 4-0 against the Eastern Division this season. Leonardo de Oliveira and Brandon Escoto each added a goal and two assists, while Mitchell Cardenas contributed a pair of helpers. Juan Manuel Rojo had a goal and assist from the back line, as did 44-year-old Ze Roberto, starting what is likely his final home match in a lineup rotation from head coach Phil Salvagio.
The Sockers honored Roberto with a position on the power play unit in the fourth quarter, and Ze came through with a header goal for his first goal of the season and possibly the last of his illustrious career, which has seen him earn six championship rings with San Diego.
“Tonight means a lot to me,” said Roberto, “Every time I have the opportunity put on this jersey I want to be proud because it has so much history. I’m trying to catch up with them (the younger players), that’s who I’m trying to catch up with.”
San Diego, who clinched the best record in the MASL on March 19, rotated their lineup once again in anticipation of next week’s Ron Newman Cup playoffs, sitting all-MASL goalkeeper Boris Pardo for the first time all season. Second-year keeper Xavier Snaer-Williams made his first start and earned his first win of the year, stopping 13-of-18 shots after a rough first quarter.
The Sockers got off to a slow start against a composed team in the Wave (14-8-1, 42 points), who lost an opportunity to clinch the top of the East with a win. Tony Walls and Salvador Nuñez scored at 5:46 and 10:14 of the first quarter, and the Wave out-shot a sluggish San Diego attack 5-to-3.
In the opening minutes of the second quarter, Nuñez was sprung loose against a stretched defense, and had a chance to attack Snaer-Williams from the top of the crease. Putting his laces through a low shot on target, Nuñez thought he had 3-0 on his boot, but Snaer-Williams got his leg out in the nick of time for a kick save that jump-started his effort the rest of the way.
“It was huge, because it got me in the game,” said the 22-year-old from Oceanside, “It showed that I have my teammates’ back, and now I can back myself.”
On the next shift, the match turned in favor of San Diego. Cardenas found Morgan posted up on the left elbow, and Tavoy captured the ball and stepped back to free himself for a clean shot, slicing it into the net for his 21st goal of the season at 4:00.
Just like that, the Sockers were on the attack and Milwaukee was on their heels. Leo spotted Chiles down low for a re-feed pass and a goal at 5:23 to tie the score 2-2. Leo stole a breakout pass and turned it into his own goal at 11:27 for a 3-2 lead. Brandon Escoto used a series of silky fakes to free himself in the middle before he spotted rookie Luis Perez on a lovely back-heel pass for a smash up the middle at 12:37. 4-2 Sockers, wrapping up a 4-0 second quarter.
Milwaukee was shown three penalty blue cards as they tried to muscle their way back into the match, and San Diego rallied from a recent 1-for-8 slump with a 3-for-3 performance on Thursday night. Brandon Escoto’s goal 46 seconds into the third quarter extended the lead to 5-2, and Morgan and Roberto converted man advantage goals later in the half.
“We put a lot of emphasis on (the power play) in training this week,” said Chiles, “We had two quality power plays, and then kind of threw Ze a bone in that third power play, and it was even better. It couldn’t have worked out better for him to finish off that goal.”
Juan Manuel Rojo, Christian Gutierrez and Hiram “Pollo” Ruiz each added goals for the San Diego attack, with Gutierrez and Morgan moving into a tie for the team lead with 23 goals apiece and one match remaining.
Ian Bennett netted his team-leading 33rd goal of the year for the Wave off a third quarter set piece that temporarily drew Milwaukee back within striking distance at 5-4. Rojo and Morgan scored in the next three minutes to push the lead out to 7-4 at the end of three quarters, and Gutierrez, Pollo and Ze finished the club’s second five-goal run of the match in the fourth.
The Wave now head to Harrisburg on Sunday still needing a win to ensure finishing ahead of Baltimore for the East Division crown. The Sockers host Tacoma on Saturday night at 7:05pm at Pechanga Arena, a match that could have massive implications for the Western table, where third and sixth place are separated by three points. It will be Fan Appreciation Night, with a pre-match Fan Fest in the north parking lot from 5-7pm, $4 Bud Lights for sale, and a “Lords of Indoor” free t-shirt for the first 1,500 fans in attendance. Tickets are available by calling (866) 799-GOAL or visiting sdsockers.com.