Sockers In Mexico For Conference Finals Game 1

by San Diego Sockers

CHIHAUHAU, MX - The San Diego Sockers—presented by Kaiser Permanente San Diego—continue forward in the 2024 Ron Newman Cup playoffs, taking on the Chihuahua Savage in the best-of-three Western Division Finals. The series begins with Match One at Corner Sport Arena in Chihuahua on Thursday, April 18, and will continue to San Diego on April 21 for Match Two and a Knockout Game if needed. Match One will kick off from Mexico Thursday at 7:05pm, streaming in Spanish on Twitch channel @masl_soccer. 

The Sockers (18-6, 52 points, 2-1 playoffs) have reached the MASL’s “Final Four” for the eighth time in nine playoffs, and the eighth playoff in a row (the league had no championship in 2019-20 due to the COVID pandemic). San Diego clinched the Western Division with three matches to go in the regular season, suffered a drop in form which saw the club lose their final two regular season matches and their first playoff match, then rallied to win twice at home and advance. 

The Sockers and Chihuahua Savage are meeting for the third straight season on the doorstep of the Finals. Their previous two playoff encounters went the distance, needing all three matches to decide the winner. In 2021-22, San Diego overcame a 7-6 overtime loss in Match One in Chihuahua, rallying to win 6-2 in Match Two, and 4-1 in the Knockout Game. The 2022-23 series took a similar shape, as the Savage won Match One in Chihuahua 6-5, and San Diego rallied to take Match Two 6-2. However, in the Knockout Game, Carlos “Poper” Hernandez scored in overtime for a 1-0 Savage win, taking the series. The winner of this series has gone on to win the Ron Newman Cup each of the last two seasons. 

In the opening round, both San Diego and Chihuahua were pushed to the limit. The Sockers lost Match One to the Texas Outlaws 6-4, while the Savage dropped their Match One in Tacoma to the Stars 6-5. Both clubs needed to win twice at home to advance, and both were up to the task. The Sockers rallied at home on April 8for an 8-3 win in Match Two over the Outlaws, and a 4-0 win in the ensuing Knockout Game. The Savage took control on their home turf on April 7, beating the Stars 7-4 in Match Two, and 5- 0 in the Knockout Game. 

Chihuahua (16-7-1, 48 points, 2-1 playoffs) finished four points behind the Sockers in the Western Division standings, but dominated the regular season series between the two, finishing 3-0. The Savage won twice at Pechanga Arena, delivering wins of 5-1 on January 14, and 5-4 on March 3. In between, Chihuahua took an 8-6victory in Mexico on February 9. Carlos “Poper” Hernandez scored a goal in each of the three matches, with Miguel Angel Diaz and Angel Castro netting two goals each. Leonardo de Oliveira is the top scorer for San Diego, netting a hattrick on February 9. San Diego went 3- 0 in the regular season in 2021-22 and 2022-23 against Chihuahua. Add it up, and the Sockers are 6-3 against the Savage in the regular season, and 3-3 in the playoffs. Chihuahua led the MASL in defense this season, conceding a league-low 103 goals, and finished second in the league in goal differential at +59. Hugo Puentes led the Savage in scoring with (21-13=34) points. Diego Reynoso went 14-2-1in 17 starts as goalkeeper, leading the league with a 3.31GAAand finishing second with a .750 SV%.