by San Diego Sockers

Charlie Gonzalez tortured his former team with two goals and two assists, while Tavoy Morgan netted a hat trick as the San Diego Sockers raced past the Empire Strykers 11-5 Sunday night at Toyota Arena in Ontario. With the win, the Sockers (17-4, 49 points) clinched the Western Division and home-field advantage in the first two rounds of the Ron Newman Cup playoffs. 
Gabriel Costa added two goals and two assists in his return to the lineup, as San Diego polished off a six-match sweep of Empire (3-17-1, 9 points) for the season. Former Liga MX star Marco Fabián scored a hat trick for the Strykers, who lost their ninth match in a row.
The Sockers welcomed back Costa to the lineup after the MASL Newcomer of the Year had missed the last nine matches with a broken wrist. The Brazilian made an immediate impact on the scoreboard, slotting home Brandon Escoto’s wall pass from straightaway for a 1-0 lead at 6:00 of the first quarter. 
Fabián’s big night got started with a gift, as his attempted centering pass was shoveled by a sliding Felipe Gonzalez into his own net for an own goal at 7:43. After shutting the Mexican star out a week ago, San Diego had allowed his scoring boot to get started with un regalito, a mistake the club would soon regret. 
However, it was San Diego taking control of the remainder of the first quarter. Empire keeper Brian Orozco was shown a blue card for a two-footed tackle of Escoto, giving the Sockers a power play with 3:56 left in the frame. Making quick work of it, San Diego earned a free kick from the top of the arc, which Kraig Chiles back-heeled to Charlie Gonzalez on the left wing. His shot-pass to the back post snuck inside the post and into the corner of the goal for a 2-1 lead at 11:10.
The goal was the first of three in 1:25 for the Sockers. Flavio Guzman’s pass from the wall picked out Cesar Cerda on a horizontal run to the middle of the field, and Cerda tucked the ball inside the left post for his twelfth goal of the season and a 3-1 lead. Just twenty-three seconds later, Tavoy Morgan dug a pass out of a scrum to Charlie Gonzalez, who stepped on the ball, spun away to his left to free space, and slotted his seventeenth goal of the season into the upper-right corner at 12:35 for a 4-1 lead. 
Similar to their last trip up I-15, the Sockers nearly squandered a big lead with a sluggish second quarter. Feeling the heat of his early goal, Fabián netted twice from almost the same exact location, twisting a shot inside the right post from an extreme angle in the left corner. The goals, at 0:49 and 4:58 of the frame, put Empire within a goal at 4-3. San Diego pulled one back in their direction sixteen seconds later after the Strykers kicked a ball out of play for defensive clearance. On the ensuing free kick, Chiles (goal, three assists) sent a pass into the left corner for Morgan, who poked the ball between the legs of Orozco for his 22nd goal of the season at 5:14. The Sockers killed a second-quarter power play and took their 5-3 lead into the halftime locker room. 
An announced crowd of 5,013 at Toyota Arena was in full throat to start the third quarter thanks to a defensive mistake, and a beautiful goal. Harold Hanson stole the ball from the Sockers’ Drew Ruggles from behind, coming in clean on goalkeeper Boris Pardo. Boris made the initial breakaway save, but Hanson pursued the ball with his back to net into the right edge of the crease, then jumped for a bicycle kick goal over Pardo’s head into top netting at 2:18, pulling the scoreline to 5-4. 
The Sockers answered back with a four-goal run to pull away. Costa picked up two assists in 23 seconds, setting up Chiles and Morgan with back-to-back back-post goals at 7:04 and 7:27. Escoto finished a Charlie assist at 14:37 for his team-leading 25th goal and an 8-4 lead. Cesar Cerda’s 13th goal of the year from Chiles at 5:36 of the fourth quarter built the lead out to 9-4. 
With Xavier Snaer-Williams taking over for Pardo (6-of-10 saves) in net to start the fourth quarter, Empire found one more goal, with Momo Gueye scoring on a Hanson assist at 7:05. San Diego repelled almost ten minutes of Empire bringing their keeper up for a sixth attacker, including a penalty kill with 3:27 left in the match. Costa and Morgan netted at 9:20 and 14:18 to set the final score, with Morgan finishing his hat trick and 24th goal of the season. 
With the Sockers having clinched everything they can in the regular season, the final three matches will be used to maintain health and good form. San Diego travels to the Midwest next weekend, taking on Milwaukee on Friday and Kansas City on Saturday night. The club returns home for the final regular season home match on March 30, hosting the Tacoma Stars. Tickets are available by calling (866) 799-GOAL or visiting