by Pete Richmire

The San Diego Sockers used a five-goal second quarter to take control, cruising from there to a 10-3 win over the Empire Strykers Sunday night at Pechanga Arena San Diego. Charlie Gonzalez netted a second-half hat trick and added an assist for a four-point match, while Tavoy Morgan contributed two goals and two assists. 
“A lot of the stuff we’ve been working on in training showed out today (on the field),” said Charlie, who improved to (16-15=31) points on the season, “The hat trick was just extra.”
The Sockers (16-4, 46 points) improved to an eight-point lead over second-place Chihuahua with four matches remaining. San Diego can clinch the Western Division with three more wins. Cesar Cerda netted two goals with an assist as the Sockers took a 6-0 lead before the match opened up late. 
“A lot better than the last couple weeks,” said head coach Phil Salvagio, “It’s like a new season right now, we’re trying to get right for the playoffs, and this was a good start.”
San Diego goalkeeper Boris Pardo stopped 16-of-19 shots, earning his 100th win in net with the Sockers (100-17-5 record). Pardo leads the MASL all-time with 124 victories, having played in Wichita and Kansas City before coming to San Diego in 2016. The Sockers were able to shut out Mexican star Marco Fabián, who had scored at least one goal in his first sixteen MASL matches.
Smarting from their third home loss of the season last weekend against Chihuahua, the Sockers came out with a defensive determination, holding Empire (3-16-1, 9 points) to one shot in the first quarter. San Diego peppered the net looking for the go-ahead goal, but rookie Strykers keeper Brian Orozco stopped the first nine shots he faced, holding the Sockers at bay. 
The breakthrough for San Diego came early in the second quarter, as rookie midfielder Juan Salazar rolled a pass out from the offensive right corner to Cerda, who struck the ball first time on the run, lacing a volley past Orozco at 1:36 of the frame for a 1-0 lead. Less than a minute later, Christian Gutierrez stole a pass in midfield, came down the center of the field with wingers to each side, called his own number, and blasted his fifth goal of the season into the center-top netting at 2:24 for a 2-0 advantage. 
The Sockers were on a roll and kept it rolling. Felipe Gonzalez’s side wall pass popped out to Flavio Guzman in the middle for his third goal as a Socker and a 3-0 lead at 9:12. Juan Gonzalez’s running cross from the right wall struck Morgan in the chest on the goal line, pushed into the net for Tavoy’s 20th goal of the season and a 4-0 edge at 11:46. Finally with just 17 seconds left in the half, Morgan accepted an up-field pass and nudged the ball to his left to a crashing Cerda, who smashed in his second goal of the half and 11th of the season at 14:43. San Diego led 5-0 at halftime. 
“There’s always something we can improve on, but I thought the team played well tonight,” said Cerda, “You work on mistakes at practice, and sometimes (the work) comes out in the game, sometimes it doesn’t…tonight, a lot of what we did in practice this week came out in the match.”
Charlie Gonzalez got his big night going seconds into the third quarter, netting on a running, curving shot off a Cerda assist for a 6-0 lead at 0:37. The Sockers blanked Empire until the quarter’s final minute, when Adam James and Quenton Swift scored twice in 11 seconds, turning the score to 6-2 after three quarters. 
San Diego put four more in the back of the Strykers’ net in the fourth quarter, as Empire repeatedly gambled with pushing their keeper up-field into the attacking half. Kraig Chiles found his 20th goal of the season on clean-up after Brandon Escoto just missed off the right post at 1:00 of the fourth. Empire rookie Anthony Wright, the son of Sockers Hall of Famer Paul Wright, laced a perfectly placed goal into the top corner for his first MASL score at 4:33, narrowing the lead to 7-3. Morgan found his brace just five seconds later on a Charlie Gonzalez assist for 8-3. Charlie then scored back-to-back goals at 6:36 and 10:02 to conclude the scoring. 
The Sockers, having completed a disappointing 2-2 homestand, now head on the road for three straight matches, where San Diego is 8-1 on the season. The Sockers will play at Empire on Sunday, March 17, and at Milwaukee on March 22, concluding in Kansas City on March 23. San Diego then returns home for the final regular season home match at Pechanga Arena, when the club hosts Tacoma on Saturday, March 30. Tickets are available for Fan Appreciation Night by calling (866) 799-GOAL or visiting