by Craig Elsten/Sockers

The San Diego Sockers—presented by Kaiser Permanente San Diego—begin a key two-match homestand against Western Conference rivals by hosting the Chihuahua Savage on Sunday at Pechanga Arena San Diego. The match will kick off at 5:05pm PST, streaming live on Twitch on @masl_soccer.

This is the first of only two meetings between last year’s Ron Newman Cup semi-finalists, both of whom are once again on a championship collision track. The Sockers will play the Savage in Mexico on February 24. San Diego (8-0, 23 points) leads the MASL Western Conference, but the Savage (6-0-1, 18 points) have played one fewer match (to be resolved Friday night).

Last season, San Diego went 4-0 in the regular season against Chihuahua, winning 4-1 and 6-2 at home, and 6-5 (OT) and 11-10 (OT) on the road. In the playoffs, the Savage won Match One at home 7-6 (OT), forcing the Sockers to win twice at home in order to reach the Ron Newman Cup Finals. San Diego was up to the task, prevailing 6-2 in Match Two, then 4-1 in the Knockout Game to clinch the series. 

San Diego is building off the success of a 23-0-1 regular season in 2021-22, as well as a 6-0-1 playoff run. The club has twelve straight wins in all competitions leading back to the semifinal Match 1 playoff overtime loss to Chihuahua last season. The Sockers have not lost a match in regulation since a 6-4 loss in Ontario on March 13, 2021, a stretch of 49 matches in which they are 45-0-4 (postseason included). They have won 28 straight regular season matches, a new MASL record. San Diego has won their last 14 at home.

The MASL Western Conference is proving to be massively competitive, with six clubs all vying for five playoff berths. San Diego enters the weekend with a four-point lead on second place Mes-quite, and five over third place Chihuahua, but both the Outlaws and Savage will play twice this weekend to San Diego’s solo Sunday affair. The MASL points champion at the end of the season receives the MASL Supporters Shield, and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

Last weekend, the Sockers pulled two wins out of Harrisburg, prevailing by a Saturday score of 5-3, and Sunday by an 11-3 count. Tavoy Morgan scored a hat trick in the opening match, while Kraig Chiles had two goals and three assists in the second match. Boris Pardo won twice in net, improving to a league-best 8-0 record and 2.97 GAA.

Chihuahua (6-0-1, 18 points) is on a similarly dominant regular season run to San Diego. Com-bined with a 15-2 surge at the end of the 2021-22 campaign, the Savage are 21-2-1 in their last 24 regular season matches. Edgar “Torrez” Gonzalez leads the club in 2022-23 with (9-5=14) points in seven matches. While last year’s club scoring leader Jorge Rios has been held to one scoreless match due to injury, four players pace a balanced Savage attack in goals (Enrique Cañez 7, Roberto Escalante, Bryan Macias & Hugo Puentes, 6). Goalkeeper Berna “El Sargento” Valdovinos is 6-0-1 with a 4.23 GAA and .623 SV%.