Veterans came up clutch down the stretch as the San Diego Sockers edged the Memphis Outlaws 5-4 on Sunday night at Pechanga Arena. Club captain Kraig Chiles netted a hat trick, including a tie-breaking power play goal at 10:33 of the fourth quarter, and Boris Pardo stopped four shots in the final 90 seconds during a furious rally, finishing with ten saves overall.
While the Sockers (3-0, 8 points) emerged victorious, the feeling walking away from this match was that of a new rivalry being born in the MASL Western Conference.
“Yeah, that’s a really good team,” said Chiles, who started the scoring 2:37 into the match and finished it in the final five minutes, “I’m sure they’re going to do some damage, and it’s a lot of young, eager players who want to stamp their name on this league. That’s what makes this league good.”
A stamp of intensity was placed on the match in the final 80 seconds courtesy of two of the older players on the floor, as the 38-year-old Chiles tangled legs with Mesquite captain Pablo de Silva, 42. Both teams scuffled without further incident, and both Chiles and Pablo were shown a blue card for unsportsmanlike conduct, a trade Chiles found fair.
“Honestly, I got caught on the ‘six attacker down’ and needed to get the (heck) off the floor,” said Chiles in the Twitch post-match live interview, “I had a chance to foul him, I took a regular foul and when he was on the floor he kicked out at me. He’s been in the league a long time and knows what he did.”
Chiles’ view from the “sin bin” in the final minute was a welcome one, knowing that Pablo’s expertise in running the six attacker formation was also unplugged.
“It was an exchange of blue cards and at that point in the game honestly, a good exchange,” said Chiles, “He’s critical for them (on six attackers), and I’m of no importance (on six attacker defense). It was good.”
So was a match that builds excitement for two future clashes in the season.
“They should be respected,” said Pardo of the opponent, “They cause chaos, they run, and they’re not afraid.”
It was Sock Toss Night, with fans bringing pairs of new socks to throw on the field after the Sockers scored their first goal of the match, to be donated to San Diego Rescue Mission and Crisis House. The fans didn’t have to wait long to “toss them socks”, as Hiram “Pollo” Ruiz worked a perfect 1-2 with Leonardo de Oliveira to come in on net 1-v-1 against Mesquite keeper Eduardo Cortes. While Ruiz’s shot was saved, the rebound spilled to a crashing Chiles on the back post. His leaping half-volley triggered a deluge of socks filling multiple barrels.
The Outlaws (3-1, 9 points) were undeterred by the early concession, repelling a pair of Sockers power plays in the second quarter while scoring a pair of goals in the run of play to take the lead. Former Sockers defender Emmanuel Aguirre stole a ball near his bench and took matters into his own hands, taking two touches forward before sneaking a shot past Pardo on the near-post for an equalizer just 1:19 into the frame.
Axel Chakounte then put his mark on the match with a lovely right-to-left stutter step and cut to a lancing shot at 5:43, good for a 2-1 lead. The Outlaws were shown two blue cards as the quarter continued, including a challenge by Sockers head coach Phil Salvagio, who successfully upgraded a common foul to a blue card on Mesquite’s Sebastien Mendez.
However, San Diego stagnated on the man advantage, failing to generate movement beyond attempts to break down defenders one-on-one. The Sockers regathered at halftime to plan a better course of action.
“It wasn’t our best half, plain and simple,” said Pardo of the first half effort, “Our approach, not sure what it was, gotta go figure it out. But once we scored that first goal in the third, we knew we were going to be steady.”
The opening goal of the third quarter came only 19 seconds in, as Felipe Gonzalez attacked the net for San Diego. He followed the rebound of his own shot off a block, sending a searing second chance to the back post. The ball would have gone in on its own, but Christian Gutierrez was there to make sure, redirecting the shot into the center of the net from an inch away for a 2-2 tie.
Axel Chakounte’s second of the match, following the rebound off a save in the crease, put Memphis back ahead 3-2 at 5:43. Just over a minute later, the Sockers took advantage of a Mesquite delay of game, awarding a top-arc free kick. Chiles faked a pass and hesitated before lofting a perfectly placed shot into the upper-right corner netting for a 3-3 tie.
It was Chiles again facilitating with a lovely floating cross to Brandon Escoto in the final minute of the third quarter, pulling a ball out of a scrum in the middle and giving Escoto service for a menacing shot into the upper 90, Escoto’s third goal in as many matches at 14:09 for a 4-3 San Diego lead.
The Outlaws wouldn’t go away, and got their own top-arc chance early in the fourth quarter off an unforced error of a defensive clearance by San Diego’s Juan Manuel Rojo. Mesquite took advantage with a lovely set piece at 2:06, as Jorge DeLeon rolled a ball to right wing that Pablo stepped over, faking a shot while letting the ball dummy to Sebastien Mendez on the wing for a one-touch goal and yet another tie, this one at 4-4.
The spirit and intensity of the match continued to ramp up until Mesquite got called for a late David Ortiz tackle with 5:37 remaining, giving San Diego their third power play of the night. This time, the Sockers took advantage of movement. Leo’s pass from the top of the crease went past Tavoy Morgan, who held his defender long enough to see the pass through to Chiles for a blast into the upper side netting for the hat trick goal.
The Outlaws pulled Cortes for a sixth attacker with 2:45 remaining and rifled off four late shots, all parried away by diving Boris Pardo blocks. The passion of the match continued beyond the final horn as both teams had to be separated on their way off the floor.
The Sockers now get the holidays off, with no matches for the next two weeks. San Diego will reconvene for a challenging weekend interstate home-and-home on January 7 and 8. They will face the Dallas Sidekicks for a Saturday afternoon 1pm matinee in Texas, before both teams fly to the West Coast for the return leg at Pechanga Arena, a 6pm kickoff on Sunday, January 8. Tickets for the match are available by calling (866) 799-GOAL or visiting sdsockers.com.