by San Diego Sockers

SAN DIEGO - The San Diego Sockers—presented by Kaiser Permanente San Diego—continue their opening weekend home-and-home series with the 2022-23 Home Opener, welcoming the newly renamed Empire Strykers to Pechanga Arena San Diego for a Sunday night showdown. Kickoff is set for5:06pm, with the match streaming live in English on Twitch (channel @masl_soccer3) and in Spanish onCanela.TV.

The Sockers and Strykers are meeting for the second time this weekend, and the second of six times this regular season. San Diego went 5-1 against the then-Ontario Fury in 2021-22, and are 27-8 all-time against their opponents from the Inland Empire.

On Saturday night, San Diego opened the season in style on the road, handing the Strykers an 8-5 loss at Toyota Arena, the Strykers’ tenth straight loss dating back to last season. Tavoy Morgan had a hat trick and Leonardo de Oliveira added three assists, as the Sockers built a 7-3 lead before conceding twice against a sixth attacker.

San Diego is tasked with the near-impossible: building upon a record that was in and of itself nearly perfect. The Sockers tied their own MASL single-season wins record with a 23-0-1 mark, then went 6-0-1 in the playoffs en route to a second straight Ron Newman Cup. Along the way, forward Tavoy Morgan was named to the MASL Elite VI, Leonardo de Oliveira won MASL Pass Master, Boris Pardo claimed Goalkeeper of the Year, and the club lifted the first-ever MASL Shield, recognizing the regular season points champion. The Sockers have not lost a match in regulation since a 6-4 loss to the Fury in Ontario on March 13, 2021, a stretch of 41 matches (postseason included).

In pursuit of another championship campaign, the Sockers chose the path of “running it back”, returning their roster essentially intact from 2021-22. The dangerous forward triumvirate of Morgan, Christian Gutierrez and Kraig Chiles combined for 80 goals and 32 assists (112 points) last regular season. A deep midfield led by Brandon Escoto (21 goals, 23 assists in 2021-22) and de Oliveira returns versatile two-way star Hiram “Pollo” Ruiz for the full season, after being restricted in his usage last year due to visa issues. Mitchell Cardenas, Guerrero Pino, Cesar Cerda and Juan-Manuel Rojo combine toughness with speed in the defensive backfield. Pardo and Xavier Snaer-Williams return as keepers. From front toback, the roster will look largely unchanged.

The Strykers (0-2) lost to Tacoma 7-5 in their season debut on December 1 at Toyota Arena, and found no joy in Match Two despite the return of star striker Franck Tayou and defender Robert Palmer. Dating back to last season, the Fury/Strykers have lost ten straight MASL matches, a stunning reversal from a squad that was a preseason darling before the previous campaign. Head coach Jimmy Nordberg’s team has been bolstered by the free agent signing of forward Mo Ndiaye from St. Louis, but the club lost high-scoring winger Jorge DeLeon to the Mesquite Outlaws. Prior to this weekend’s matches, the Strykers announced the signing of Ádrian Perez, formerly of LAFC and DC United of MLS. Perez played with Ontario in 2017-18, leading the club with 27 goals and 39 points in 18 matches played. Perez is unavailable this weekend due to illness.