The San Diego Sockers—presented by Kaiser Permanente San Diego—conclude the 2023-24 regular season schedule when they host the Tacoma Stars on Fan Appreciation Night, the final regular season home match at Pechanga Arena in club history before they move to Frontwave Arena in Oceanside next season. Kickoff on Saturday night is set for 7:05pm, with the match streaming on Twitch channel @masl_soccer.

The Sockers (18-5, 52 points), owners of the best record in MASL history all-time at 167-36-5, have clinched the Western Division regular season crown, a feat they accomplished with three matches left to play. The 24-0 Monterrey Flash have clinched the MASL Supporters Shield for the best regular-season record in the league, so San Diego has nothing but pride, health and form to play for in the final three matches of the regular season.

The Sockers and Tacoma Stars are meeting for the sixth and final time this season. San Diego has won the first five matchups, and has beaten Tacoma in thirteen straight matches. In competition dating back to the MISL, the Sockers own an all-time record of 77-22 against the Stars. In the MASL, San Diego is 34-4 against Tacoma, and 4-0 in playoff series (with an 8-1 playoff match record).

Last weekend, the Sockers played their fourth and final interstate back-to-back of the season, taking on two playoff teams from the Eastern Division. On Friday, March 22, the Sockers held off the Milwaukee Wave 3-2, handing the Wave their only regulation home loss this season. Playing on his 40th birthday, San Diego goalkeeper Boris Pardo was in vintage form, stopping 15-of-17 shots to earn the victory. Leonardo de Oliveira returned to the lineup after missing a month with a knee injury, contributing a goal. Drew Ruggles and Brandon Escoto added goals to the Sockers victory.

The next night was a different story, as the combination of travel from Wisconsin to Missouri, a sellout crowd at Cable Dahmer Arena and a motivated Kansas City side honoring the retirement of all-time leading scorer Leo Gibson added up to a 19-6 win for the host Comets over San Diego. Trailing 2-0 after the first quarter, San Diego rallied their way back into the match and took a 5-4 lead after three quarters. The Comets burst away, scoring six straight goals in the fourth quarter to turn a close match into a rout.

The Sockers will have an eye on the scoreboard and another on the ghosts of past glory on Saturday night, as the club honors the twelve championships won underneath the dome of the “Grand Old Arena” they have called home off-and-on since 1980. While the team will conclude their playoffs at Pechanga Arena, their next regular season home match will be at Frontwave Arena in Oceanside, the new home being built with private money in San Diego’s North County.

Tacoma (14-6-2, 41 points) is the hottest team in the West, having won seven straight matches. The Stars just welcomed the return of star forward Nick Perera, who had missed nine matches with an injury. Midfielder Jamael Cox is having a career season with (25-15=40) points. Tacoma acquired midfielder Justin Stinson (7-4=11 points in four matches) and defender Stefan Mijatovic (6-4=10 points in six matches) on loan from Empire.

Beat Us Once, Shame On You

The San Diego Sockers boast an MASL-best 167-36-5 record over the ten-year history of the league. San Diego won consecutive MASL Supporters Shields in 2021-22 and 2022-23, awarded to the club with the best regular season record in the league. That streak that is now over with the Monterrey Flash clinching the 2023-24 Shield. The Sockers finished 22-2 in 2022-23, five wins ahead of Chihuahua (17) for the highest mark. The Sockers have a record of 63-7-1 the past three seasons, and saw a 16-match regular season winning streak snapped on January 14 against the Savage. The last time the Sockers lost two matches in a row was March 13 and 14, 2021 during the COVID season when the club played only on the road. San Diego is 4-0 this season following a loss, a streak that is on the line Saturday night.

Final Season in the “Grand Old Arena

The Sockers have also been the most dominant home team in MASL history, with a 90-9-1 all-time record. San Diego saw its 25-match regular season home winning streak end on January 14. The club is 52-5-1 at home over the past four+ seasons. However, the Sockers have lost three times this year at Pechanga Arena, tying the most home losses in a modern regular season (7-3 in 2015-16). Next season, the Sockers will move out of Pechanga Arena and into the new Frontwave Arena in Oceanside.

Pretty Good on the Road, Too

San Diego completed a 10-2 road schedule, matching their mark from last season. The Sockers’ 10-2 road record in the 2022-23 season was easily the best in the MASL. Chihuahua was second-best at 7-5. This season, Monterrey has gone 12-0 on the road, matching a mark the Sockers have achieved twice in MASL history. The Sockers had a 17-match regular season road winning streak snapped in Ontario on February 8, 2023.

Another Round Number for Kraig Chiles: 700 (now 709!)

Sockers captain Kraig Chiles is in his fifteenth season with the Sockers, ranking as the franchise’s all-time leader in goals (480) and points (709). He reached 700 with a penalty kick goal against Kansas City on February 25. It was the second “round number” celebration for Chiles this season, as on January 17, Chiles reached 400 MASL points with an assist against Empire (277-153=430 career, fifth-most). Chiles joined Franck Tayou, Ian Bennett, Leo Gibson and Nick Perera in the MASL 400-point club. (Tayou opened the MASL 500-point club earlier this season.) Last year, Chiles once again paced the Sockers attack, leading all scorers with (21-20=41) points. It was the eleventh time in his career he averaged at least 2.0 points per match. After a lull which saw the captain held to two assists in three matches, Chiles began to show the return of a midseason mustache, which has often preceded a scoring binge. He responded with points in ten straight matches, netting (14-8=22) points during the surge. Chiles was shut out against Chihuahua, ending his scoring streak. He scored his 20th goal of the season against Empire on March 10, and has scored at least 20 goals in every full season of the MASL (the league was held to a 10-match season in 2021 due to COVID). Chiles is two points from his eighth 40+ point season in the MASL.

Pardo 102 Wins In San Diego

Sockers two-time defending MASL Goalkeeper of the Year Boris Pardo returned from a three-match suspension to take the net for the last ten straight matches, posting a 7-3 record. In nineteen starts this season, Pardo has a 14-4 record and 4.99 GAA, with a .684 SV%. A now three-time winner of the top goalkeeping honor in the MASL, Pardo is the league’s all-time leader in wins (126), including a 102-18-5 mark with the Sockers. Boris led the MASL in wins in 2022-23 with a 21-2 record, marking the third time in three full 24-match schedules where he reached the 20-win plateau. The 39-year-old also led the league in goals-against average (3.80) while finishing fifth in save percentage (.726). In 2021-22, Pardo earned his second straight championship, while picking up his second career award as MASL Goalkeeper of the Year. He again led the MASL in wins (19) and goals-against-average (4.20), and his .731 save percentage ranked second in the league. The Sockers are playing only one match this weekend, which augurs well for Pardo: when playing with two+ days rest this season, Pardo is 12-2 with a 4.47 GAA and .699 SV%. When playing with one-or-zero days rest, Pardo is 2-2 in five starts with a 6.87 GAA and .645 SV%.

Tavoy Needs Late Burst for Scoring Title

Forward Tavoy Morgan enters the final match four points away from matching his career-high of 49, set in 2021-22 (39 goals, 10 assists). With (24-21=45) points on the season, Morgan enters the weekend five points behind Genaro Castitllo of Monterrey for the league scoring title. Tavoy was held to one assist over two matches last weekend on the road, dimming his hopes of taking the crown. He celebrated his 29th birthday on March 1 with a career-high four assist game against Empire, and his 21 assists are a career-best. Tavoy appeared in his 100th MASL match on February 25 vs. Kansas City.

Escoto Always Dangerous 

Sockers midfielder Brandon Escoto has always had a flair for the dramatic, and showed it again on January 28 with a header goal at 14:55 of the fourth quarter to equalize the match against Tacoma and send San Diego toward victory. “Churras” took his soccer artistry to new heights against Empire on January 17 with an audacious bicycle kick from behind the attacking line in the fourth quarter. Escoto’s bid hit the dead center of the net after sailing over the goalkeeper’s head for the MASL Goal of the Year to date. Brandon leads the Sockers with 28 goals and ranks second with 44 points on the season.

Power Play Popping Again

The San Diego Sockers power play has bounced back from a season-long slump to score on their last seven tries, including a 4-for-4 performance in Kansas City. The club is currently fifth (of thirteen) in the MASL with a .360 conversion percentage (18-for-50). The Sockers lead the league with 50 power play attempts and 18 goals. The club has also scored three penalty kick goals and a shootout goal this season.

Brazilian Playmakers Return

Midfielder Gabriel Costa returned from a nine-game absence due to a broken wrist on March 17 at Empire. The defending MASL Newcomer of the Year picked up right where he left off, netting two goals with an assist in the Sockers’ 11-5 win, and has (3-3=6) points in three matches. Costa has contributed (11-16=27) points in 14 matches, an average of 1.9 points-per-match. Leonardo de Oliveira returned to the lineup against Milwaukee after a seven-match absence due to a sore right knee, scoring a goal in his return. Leonardo has posted (8-13=21) points in twelve matches this season.

Defensive Captain Down

Sockers defender Cesar Cerda is listed as “out” on the injury report after suffering a knee injury in Kansas City last weekend, threatening to end his participation this season. A prolonged absence would be a significant blow, as Cerda leads Sockers defenders with 13 goals, 22 points and 40 fouls.

Player Highlights

Charlie Gonzalez

(58-44=102) points in 57 matches as a Socker

Guerrero Pino/Mitchell Cardenas

Tied for the Sockers lead with 31 blocked shots

Tavoy Morgan

Four assists away from tying the league lead (25)