by Craig Elsten/Sockers

The San Diego Sockers—presented by Kaiser Permanente San Diego-battle the Chihuahua Savage in the return leg of the Ron Newman Cup semifinals on Sunday evening at Pechanga Arena San Diego, beginning with Match Two of the best-of-three series. Kickoff is set for 5:05pm, with the match being carried live on Twitch on channel @masl_soccer. If the Sockers win, a fifteen-minute Match Three would be played after the conclusion of Match Two to decide the series.

The Ron Newman Cup playoffs feature the top eight teams in the Major Arena Soccer League. Division winners earned the top three seeds, with the five next-best point totals qualifying as wild cards. The opening round saw San Diego, Florida, Kansas City, and Chihuahua all advance, the top four seeds in the bracket. The lower-seeded club hosts the first match, and the higher-seeded club the second. If the series is tied 1-1 after two matches, a fifteen-minute Knockout Game follows to determine the winner. The semifinal winners will meet in the Ron Newman Cup Finals.

The Sockers (23-0-1, 66 points) were the top club in the MASL through the 2021-22 regular season, winning the MASL Shield as the regular season champions. San Diego is the #1 seed in the Ron Newman Cup playoffs, with home-field advantage throughout. The Sockers saw their overall 22-match winning streak come to an end in Match One of the semifinals, dropping a 7-6 OT decision in Chihuahua. San Diego has not lost in regulation this season. The club’s only other loss was an 8-7 OT setback to the Ontario Fury on January 9. 

The Sockers and the expansion Chihuahua Savage put on a show for MASL fans in Match One of the semifinals in front of a sellout crowd of over 2,000 at Corner Sport Arena in Chihuahua. The lead exchanged hands seven times, with neither team ever able to take a two-goal lead. San Diego saw a 4-3 fourth-quarter lead turn into a 6-5 deficit, equalizing on Kraig Chiles’ set-piece goal with 14 seconds remaining in regulation. Edgar “Torrez” Gonzalez scored his second goal of the match 45 seconds into golden goal overtime to secure the win for the Savage.

The Sockers and Savage met four times in the regular season, with San Diego posting a 4-0 record. The Sockers won 4-1 and 6-2 at home, largely neutralizing the Chihuahua attack. In Mexico, San Diego prevailed by 6-5 (OT) and 11-10 (OT) scores. The Savage won twelve straight home matches after their losses to the Sockers, including Match One of the semifinals.

Chihuahua (15-7-2, 44 points regular season) led the league with 185 goals scored in the regular season (the Sockers scored 182 goals). After an 0-5-2 start, the Savage crushed MASL competition, winning 15 of their final 17 matches. Head coach Luis Jaime Borrego has assembled a roster filled with former MASL stalwarts from inactive franchises Monterrey and Sonora, led by Jorge “Pareja” Rios, who tallied (33-11=44) points to lead the Savage. Veterans Edgar “Torrez” Gonzalez and Carlos “Poper” Hernandez have powered the Savage attack in the playoffs with eight goals combined. Goalkeeper Berna Valdovinos went 14-2-2 in the regular season (5.79 GAA, .679 SV%) in 18 starts.