by Craig Elsten/Sockers

SAN DIEGO — The San Diego Sockers—presented by Kaiser Permanente San Diego—return home to open a three-match homestand by hosting the Tacoma Stars on Star Wars Night at Pechanga Arena San Diego. The match is set for a 7:35pm kickoff and will be broadcast for free live on MASL TV on YouTube.

Barreling through a road trip that took them to Ontario, Chihuahua, and back, the Sockers (7-0-1, 19 points) danced on the high wire to post a 4-0 record. San Diego won 7-2 over Ontario on January 16, then survived back-to-back overtime thrillers in Mexico, prevailing over the Chihuahua Savage by golden goal scores of 6-5 and 11-10. Back in Ontario on Wednesday, the Sockers needed the overtime shootout to escape with a comeback 8-7 victory. With another match Sunday against Utica,
San Diego is on the tail end of five matches in ten days.

The Sockers’ most recent match was their fourth already of the season against rival Ontario and the most challenging yet. San Diego saw the home team grab a 4-0 lead early in the second quarter, and a 7-4 advantage in the fourth. The Sockers scored three straight goals to force overtime, with Tavoy Morgan netting the equalizer at 13:41 of the fourth. After bitter and scoreless overtime that included Ontario stopping a shootout attempt with 23 seconds remaining, the match went to a
deciding three-round shootout. The Fury’s Thiago Goncalves and Justin Stinson both shot wide, while Kraig Chiles and Brandon Escoto each hit the mark to lead San Diego to a hard-earned victory.

Having departed the “Ontario” portion of their 2021-22 schedule, the Sockers now head into the “Tacoma variant”, where they will play the Stars four of the next five matches over the next three weekends. San Diego and Tacoma met to open the season in the Pacific Northwest, with the Sockers posting a 10-7 victory on December 11. Charlie Gonzalez led the way in the match with two goals and two assists.

San Diego will have to navigate the weekend without their steady hand in the back, as veteran goalkeeper Boris Pardo serves a two- match suspension, handed down by the Major Arena Soccer League front office on Thursday afternoon. Pardo was given the penalty for a challenge in the crease against Ontario’s Willie Spurr in the fourth quarter. He is eligible to return to action on February 6 against Tacoma. Xavier Snaer-Williams is expected to make his pro starting debut in net on Friday.

The Stars (2-4, 6 points) are about to embark on a gauntlet of six straight matches against the Sockers and Fury, which should help define their status in the MASL West. Tacoma is coming off back-to-back losses to the Kansas City Comets, including a 9-2 loss last weekend in downtown Kansas City. Perennial scoring leader Nick Perera has nearly double the points of the next-highest scorer on the roster with (12-7=19) points in six matches. Alessandro Canale has broken out with a career-high nine goals, while stalwart Danny Waltman is 2-4 with a 6.66 GAA and .640 SV% in the net.