San Diego, California
The San Diego Sockers (7-0) remained perfect Sunday night against the Turlock Express in front of a raucous crowd of 3,240 fans on Star Wars night at Valley View Casino as Kraig Chiles increased his scoring streak to seven games and Erick Tovar collected a hat trick. Even though they tried their best, Turlock simply underestimated San Diego’s power as they were cut down 9-2.
San Diego started off the game with a very quick pace, constantly attacking Tacoma’s defense and pushing the ball forward. Brandon Escoto had a chance early on, but couldn’t score on a breakaway as his shot was too soft and was easily scooped up by the opposing keeper. This would set the tone for the rest of the quarter.
The Sockers continued to be relentless on the offense, but the scrappy Express defense kept with them pace for pace and were able to keep the ball away from their goalie. However, San Diego was able to continue their fast pace and keep their legs fresh by substituting in the new promotions from the Sockers 2 squad Andy Lorei, Mike Mercuriali, and Chad Hagerty.
The Sockers defense also held strong despite little resistance, and Boris Pardo was able to play nearly undisturbed. Tacoma would valiantly try, but they failed to get even one shot on Pardo and the defense.
San Diego continued to pummel Express goalie Edgar Martinez with constant shots, but they just couldn’t get it past him as Martinez was constantly diving and blocking shots, and was able to keep the score tied up at 0 at the end of the quarter.
The fun would begin in the second quarter thanks to Kraig Chiles, who found Ray Contreras open in front of the goal. Contreras was able to cross up Martinez with some sneaky moves and shot a rocket into the goal, giving the Sockers the lead. Turlock answered right back with a flurry of shots towards Pardo, but he was able to make two excellent blocks to keep Turlock off the scoreboard. San Diego’s defense would come through when they needed to, making critical stops and at one point saving a goal when Pardo found himself straying too far away from the goal.
Anthony Medina was the next Socker to score after getting a pass from Luan Oliveira. With a Turlock defender hounding him, Medina made a swift move to his left to shake the man off and blast the ball right over Martinez’ head. Oliveira would pick up another assist a few minutes later by sending a pass right between the open legs of an Express defender to a wide open Chiles, who made the goal look easy as he made the score 3-0. San Diego would continue to hurtle shots towards Turlock’s goal, but they wouldn’t be able to advance the score.
It would be Turlock who would draw first blood in the third quarter as Ivan Campos was able to sneak a ground ball right past a diving Pardo to put the Express on the board 3-1. San Diego would respond a few minutes later as the Turlock defenders gifted Matt Clare with a wide open shooting lane and Clare would thank them by knocking the ball right into the back of the net, with Luis Ortega being credited with the assist.
The Sockers would get another chance to score with ten minutes in the quarter with Chiles taking a top-of-the-box shot. As the Express lined up to form a five man wall, nobody seemed to pay any attention to Erick Tovar, who happily repaid their kindness towards him by scorching the ball into the top left corner of the net, making the score 5-1.
With Turlock racing down the field with the ball, Pardo made sure they wouldn’t find the back of the net by making an incredibly athletic save. However, the referee found Clare guilty of tripping and sent him to the penalty box with a blue card. Turlock took immediate advantage of the power play, as due to the penalty occurring in the box, Campos was given a 1-on-1 shot against Pardo from the red line. Campos would win the standoff against Pardo and the score was now 5-2, however Clare was freed from the box with the score.
The Sockers would be given a power play opportunity late in the third quarter after Arturo Pulido, frustrated due to not getting a previous call after taking a tumble, released his frustrations on Lorei and pushed him into the boards. The referees recognized Pulido’s kind gesture and thanked him for it by giving him a blue card and two minutes in the penalty box as time wound down in the third quarter.
With the power play still intact going into the last quarter of play, Turlock played with more caution while San Diego darted around the four-man offense looking for scoring opportunities. Unfortunately, there would be no such chance as, despite multiple shots, none found their mark and the Express killed off the power play. This wouldn’t matter as Tovar angled a perfect shot into the goal seconds after the play was killed, and the score boosted up to 6-2.
The Sockers, not satisfied with a four-goal lead, decided to pour on the punishment as Medina, with an open goal in front of him and three defenders surrounding him, showed off some intricate dribbling, squeaked past the defenders and tapped the ball in for another Socker goal. Naturally, this ruffled some feathers of the Turlock players and they began to show their frustration. As Contreras fought off a defender for the ball, Adrian Gutierrez came from behind and began to grapple with the two players and put his foot where it wasn’t supposed to be, sending Contreras to the ground. Gutierrez would be able to blow off some steam in the penalty box as he got a blue card penalty and San Diego picked up another power play, but it would amount to nothing as the Express were able to kill it off.
Turlock would get their own penalty play after Chiles was caught elbowing an opposing player, but their offense stalled out at the worst time and San Diego killed off the power play. San Diego continued to push for offense, but as an Escoto pass to Chiles was slapped away by Martinez, Martinez fell to the floor in obvious pain. After an evaluation, he was pulled from the game and a six-man attack began.
This was nothing new to San Diego as their defense, after facing six-man offenses plenty of times already this season, was hardly phased by this threat. In fact, Felipe Gonzales and Tovar would add more points to the board as Tovar’s goal was his third of the night, giving him the hat trick and finishing off a battered and bruised Turlock squad 9-2.
Pardo noted that his team “got a little too comfortable” after the first quarter as Turlock switched up their attacking game, but said that “our defense is something we’ve been really taking some pride in this year” and praised them for their overall effort. Tovar was thankful for the fans for showing up to support their team said that “I need this and I’m very happy” on his hat trick and overall performance.
The Sockers will pick up play against the Express in Turlock on January 5 of the new year. They will then host the Express at the Valley View Casino Center on January 7 at 5:05 pm. It will be Fitness and San Diego Blood Bank Blood Drive Night and the first 2000 fans in attendance will receive a deluxe Sockers water bottle. Parking is and always will be on the house, and streaming services are available on the MASL’s on YouTube channel MASLtv.