by Craig Elsten/Sockers

San Diego, CA -  Brandon Escoto netted the game-winner 3:19 into sudden-death overtime, as the San Diego Sockers held off theTacoma Stars 4-3 on Sunday evening at Pechanga Arena San Diego. The Sockers (10-0-1) won their seventh straight match, a run that includes four wins in overtime.

Escoto’s goal came on a brilliant individual effort, as he captured a loose ball just outside the offensive zone, tip-toed in with the left foot, danced away from two defenders just enough to create a seam, then fired across his body, sneaking the ball just inside the right post. It was Escoto’s third point of the night (two assists), and 8th goal of the season.

“A very close, complicated game,” said Escoto, “I think we all had a bad game, but at the end of the day we got the win, which is what matters. We have to keep adding to (our standings) points.”

Tacoma (3-5-1) came to play on this Sunday evening, pushing the Sockers to the limit with a strong defensive performance. Stars keeper Danny Waltman was spectacular, stopping 16 of 20 shots, including a handful of bonus saves in the first half.
San Diego captain Kraig Chiles netted two goals on the match, and exhaled with frustration afterwards when asked if the Sockers fell into Tacoma’s trap.

“Yeah, we did,” said Chiles, who contributed his 601st and 602nd career points, “Internally we expect a little bit better from ourselves,but it’s always nice to get the win and get the win in overtime…unfortunately we lose a (standings) point, but, you know…internally I think we know we could have done a better job.”

Chiles opened the scoring in the final seconds of the first quarter, pouncing on a back-post wall pass from Ze Roberto, who earned an assist in his first match of the season. The goal at 14:51 of the frame gave San Diego a 1-0 lead.

Charlie Gonzalez scored from Escoto just 57 seconds into the second quarter, and for a fleeting moment, it appeared the Sockers would assert their will on the match. Instead, San Diego crouched defensively, sputtered on the attack, and allowed a tenacious Tacoma side to keep up the pressure. Ismael de Luna’s long-shot 10:54 into the quarter went off Boris Pardo’s hands and into the net, narrowing the score to 2-1.

San Diego had multiple chances to regain a two-goal advantage, but Waltman refused to budge. His one-handed leaping stop denying Charlie Gonzalez highlighted a half in which Waltman made eight saves. The Sockers trudged into the intermission with a 2-1advantage.

If the hope of the home crowd of 1,150 was that San Diego would respond to a tongue-lashing with a stronger effort, that hope was quickly dashed as the Stars jumped on the Sockers early. Cory Keitz knocked home a wall pass from Jeff Bader at point-blank range2:22 into the third, and the match was knotted at 2-2.

Chiles’ second of the match came on the type of play a veteran knows how to make. Fed a long ball forward by Escoto on left-wing, Chiles instinctively read the defender charging him to the right, and let the ball travel past his left hip, one-timing a shot with his off foot past Waltman for a 3-2 lead at 7:48 of the quarter. 

Trailing by the same score to open the fourth, Tacoma played the kickoff forward and found immediate joy, as Nick Perera set up a quick shot from Michael Ramos. The rebound came to Keitz at the top of the crease, who quickly shoveled a pass to the back post,where Logan Jones touched it home off Pardo’s leg for a 3-3 tie just 10 seconds into the quarter.

Both teams had nervy chances late in the match to secure a victory. Alex Caceres’ curving left-footed shot in the final five minutes struck the underside of the San Diego crossbar but stayed out. Leonardo de Oliveira’s chance in the final minute was stopped by Waltman, and the keeper’s distribution in the final ten seconds brought Ramos in on goal 1-v-1 for a moment, but his left-footed shot was warded off by Boris Pardo (9/12 saves, 7-0-1 record) as time expired.

From there, it was Escoto’s time to shine, but he had to offer praise for Waltman’s effort after the match.
“Absolutely one of the best goalkeepers in the league for me, he helps them so much. Truly he’s a great goalkeeper,” said Escoto. The Sockers and Stars will relocate to the accesso ShoWare Center in Kent, Washington for back-to-back matches next weekend, as Tacoma looks for their first win over San Diego this season.