by San Diego Sockers

SAN DIEGO, CA. - The San Diego Sockers—presented by Kaiser Permanente San Diego—conclude their three-match
homestand and begin another two-match weekend as they host the Empire Strykers for the final time this season on Friday night. The match is scheduled for a 7:35 pm kickoff from Pechanga Arena, and will be streamed live on Twitch on channel @masl_soccer. San Diego will travel after the match to Mexico for a Sunday afternoon contest in Monterrey.

The Sockers (18-2, 52 points) have won six straight, clinching both a playoff berth and the MASL Supporters Shield, awarded to the club with the best regular season record in the league. San Diego will have home-field advantage throughout the upcoming Ron Newman Cup playoffs. With four matches remaining in the season, San Diego’s goal is to ensure full health while also remaining in proper form for the playoffs.

Friday notes the sixth and final meeting in the regular season between the Sockers and Strykers. San Diego is 4-1 against Empire, although two of their three wins have come in golden goal overtime. The Strykers broke up the Sockers’ perfect season on February 8 with a dominant 10-4 win in Ontario, then rallied with four consecutive fourth quarter goals to tie up the March 9 match at Toyota Arena, only to see San Diego escape with an 8-7 win on Christian Gutierrez’s golden goal. The Sockers scored the last six goals of the match to beat Empire 7-3 on Sunday. The two clubs met one another twice to begin the season, with the Sockers emerging victorious by scores of 8-5 and 2-1 (OT) on December 10 and 11.

In their last meeting on Sunday, March 19, the Sockers and Strykers played an intense match which saw Empire stride out to a 3-1 second quarter lead, only to be worn down in a 5-0 second half by San Diego for a 7-3 final score. Kraig Chiles netted the go-ahead goal and added three assists to pace the Sockers’ office, while Christian Gutierrez salted the match away with back-to-back empty net goals against a six attacker formation.

Tavoy Morgan added two goals for San Diego, while Boris Pardo stopped 9-of-12 shots against in net for his 18th win of the season. The victory officially clinched the MASL Supporters Shield for the Sockers. Defender Israel Sesay scored a pair of goals for the Strykers, but top goal scorers Franck Tayou and Gabriel Costa were held off the scoresheet.

Empire (12-7-2, 36 points) started the season 0-3-1 before rattling off wins in 12 of 14 contests. The Strykers (formerly Ontario Fury) have since lost three straight contests. Empire resides in third place in the Western Conference, and Chihuahua has a magic number of one point to clinch second place. The Strykers lead Mesquite by three points for third place, but the Outlaws have a match in hand over Empire. Franck Tayou leads the MASL in goals (34) and ranks second in points (48). Rookie midfielder Gabriel Costa has 17 goals and 18 assists, and torched the Sockers’ defense for three goals and three assists on March 9. Fallbrook native Chris Toth sports a .749 SV%, second-best in the MASL, with a 12-4-2 record. Toth made seventeen saves on Sunday to keep Empire in the match. Mohamed Ndiaye, signed to be a forward, has revamped the Strykers defense since being moved to defender. He has contributed 13 blocked shots with (7-14=21) points.