SAN DIEGO—The Sockers won’t be back in San Diego until the month of March. On the first Friday night of February, the club left a lasting memory for their fans, capping a perfect start to the season.
Charlie Gonzalez and Tavoy Morgan each contributed a goal with two assists as the Sockers rode past the Mesquite Outlaws 7-2 at Pechanga Arena San Diego. San Diego (10-0, 29 points) scored twice on the power play and controlled a Mesquite attack that was missing top scorer Luiz Morales due to injury.
“Sometimes that can be tricky (facing a short-handed side) because you ease into the game thinking you have a big advantage,” said Sockers captain Kraig Chiles, who added a goal and an assist of his own, “We kind of stuck to our game, stayed patient and waited for our opportunity.”
San Diego enters a month-long six-match road trip in first place and on a series of winning streaks. The club has won 14 straight in all competitions (including playoffs), 16 in a row at home, 30 straight regular season matches (an MASL record), and now the club has gone 51 straight matches without a regulation loss (47-0-4).
The Sockers out-shot the Outlaws 28-16 and largely shut down Mesquite’s chances, as the Texas aspirants were not only without Morales but also top facilitator Pablo de Silva and key wing shooter Jorge DeLeon. Sebastian Mendez scored two goals for the visitors, both unassisted.
San Diego got off to their typical organized defensive start in the first quarter, until a rare mistake cost them the night’s opening goal. On a pass made through goalkeeper Boris Pardo, the ball hit a seam in the turf and hopped up Pardo’s leg, causing a turnover that spilled to Mendez at point-blank range for an easy put-in. The Outlaws led 1-0 at the 10:11 mark.
Mesquite (8-2-2, 24 points) looked poised to take their advantage into the quarter break until a mistake opened the door a crack for the Sockers to walk through, with a defender sending a simple aerial ball into the stands for defensive delay of game. San Diego was given a top-arc restart and Chiles made no mistake, pulling off a series of deceptive fakes over the ball before rolling to the low left for Leonardo de Oliveira’s one-touch goal and a 1-1 tie at 14:48 of the quarter.
“Those are the critical moments that keep you in games,” said Chiles, “That was an important free kick for us to execute and it gave us the platform to stay patient, not panic, and build our way into the game.”
The Sockers’ go-ahead goal was a perfect example of the team-wide execution that has led to 30 straight regular season wins. Defender Cesar Cerda won a hard challenge at midfield and immediately passed to forward Christian Gutierrez, who was slightly ahead on left-wing entering the attacking zone. As Cerda sprinted to the back post, Gutierrez fed the ball ahead to Charlie Gonzalez in the corner, who kept the one-touch passing alive with a centering ball across the face of the goal to…who else but Cesar Cerda, who finished what he started with a slam dunk goal good for a 2-1 lead at 4:05 of the quarter. San Diego held their 2-1 lead into the halftime locker room.