ONTARIO, CA—All good things must come to an end, sometimes emphatically.
The San Diego Sockers played their least impressive game in many seasons, falling behind quickly and showing little appetite for a comeback in a sluggish 10-4 loss to the Empire Strykers on Wednesday night at Toyota Arena. Defending MASL Offensive Player of the Month and four-time league MVP Franck Tayou had his best game as a Fury/Stryker against San Diego, netting four goals with three assists for a seven-point night.
San Diego (10-1, 29 points) saw five different winning streaks all vanish at once. The Sockers had won 10 straight on the season, 14 straight in all competitions (dating back to last season’s playoffs), 17 straight on the road, 30 in a row in the MASL regular season, and held a point streak of 51 straight games (47-0-4). Empire (10-5-1, 29 points) moved into a tie for first place in the Western Conference, although San Diego has five fewer games played than Empire. The Fury/Strykers franchise improved to 9-28 all-time against the Sockers.
“We gotta regroup, and it’s game-by-game,” said a glowering head coach Phil Salvagio after the match, “Nobody (in here) cares about the streaks.”
In the place of the winning streaks came some ignominious history, as the Sockers saw themselves on the wrong end of their second-biggest loss since the franchise was reborn in 2009. After not even seeing a multi-goal loss since March of 2021, San Diego lost by six goals and conceded ten, their worst performance since a 9-3 loss at Sonora on February 25, 2017. The performance only topped a 15-8 loss at Sonora on November 7, 2015.
The performance led to a quiet locker room afterward, and an address from Salvagio to his team behind closed doors. While the volume level didn’t rise to peel the paint off the walls, the fury in Salvagio’s eyes moments later told a story.
“You go on a long winning streak and you think you can just show up and play, and for the teams we play, it’s the game they circle on their calendar,” said Salvagio, “We play Empire six times (a season) and we know it’s going to be a battle. This time they handed our asses to us. Sorry to say that, but it’s the truth.”
The Sockers came out with a strategy of high pressure, attacking the ball wherever it was on the field in hopes of forcing turnovers and quick strikes. The downside of a high-pressure defense, however, is when pressure is broken. Empire smoothly dismantled San Diego with three Sockers in the press, working an open ball up the middle on counter-attack. Gabriel Costa slid a pass sending in Justin Stinson on right wing, whose rising shot found the high corner of the net for a quick 1-0 lead 2:02 into the match.
San Diego’s best chance in the first quarter came on an attempted wall pass to Tavoy Morgathat was shot high over frame on first time service. The Sockers kept up the pressure but got burned again late in the frame. Cesar Cerda was called for a foul at midfield and as he looked to the official in protest, the Strykers quickly restarted and created an instant 3-v-2 going forward. Franck Tayou’s lofted cross from left-to-right found Maicon de Abreu unmarked on right wing, and he was able to slot his shot inside the left corner of the net for his first goal of the season at 13:36. The Sockers found themselves down 2-0 after the opening quarter.