Five games. Twelve days. Three states. Two countries. Multiple hours were flown on a plane.
These are the conditions the weary San Diego Sockers faced coming into the game against the Monterrey Flash, the team that bounced them from the playoffs last year in the 2017 MASL Western Conference Finals.
Their game was less of a graceful waltz and more of a bare-knuckle slugfest, with goals scoring left and right while players tumbled to the pitch, straining and pushing for the advantage in a heated contest that went into overtime. Tapping into their stamina reserves, the Sockers were lifted to victory by the golden boot of Cesar Cerda and a clutch performance from Boris Pardo.
“Some of the bigger players showed up today,” said head coach Phil Salvagio after the game, continuing to praise his team’s toughness, saying “They played their hearts out today, it was a tough match”.
The goals began in earnest with Luis “Pee Wee” Ortega striking a goal past the hands of Diego Reynoso, who couldn’t handle Ortega’s earlier shot as it bounced off of his hands.
However, it was the second period that saw a flurry of goals scored for both sides. First, Guerrero Pino crossed up Reynoso with a goal from the corner. Monterrey would get on the board for the first time as, after navigating a sea of Sockers in the box, Miguel Vaca poked in his first goal of the game. Minutes later, Kraig Chiles scored on a top-of-the-box shot after his slight hesitation created an opening in the wall of Flash defenders.
San Diego tallied one last goal in the period as Leo De Oliviera found Travis Pittman just outside the box. The former outdoor player didn’t waste the opportunity, collecting the pass from De Oliviera and sending it into the back of the net for a goal.
It was after this goal that emotions started to flare on the field, and led to two Sockers power plays. The first blue card went to Edgar Florez, who didn’t take kindly to a shove from Eddie Velez and knocked him to the ground. The second blue card went to Carlos Pichardo, who was tagged for an admittedly questionable two-footed tackle. However, San Diego wasn’t able to capitalize on the power plays.
Monterrey, on the other hand, made sure to capitalize on their power play. After Chiles was sent packing to the penalty box with a blue card, Franck Tayou scored a power-play goal after he isolated himself in the box. The chaotic first period finally came to a close with a score of 4-2 in favor of San Diego, but not before both head coaches gave spirited pleas to the referees on calls that were (or weren’t) called, with Monterrey head coach Mariano Bollella being particularly passionate and using words that most certainly weren’t “Happy New Year”.
The Monterrey bunch were resilient and refused to go down without a fight. Omar Santillan started the second half off with a bang, sneaking past Pardo and hitting a shot that went past Pino, who was guarding the corner of the box. A Velez goal gave the Sockers a two-goal lead, but after Cerda was called for a blue card, Carlos Farias placed a shot into the top left corner of the box that not even a leaping Pardo could stop.
The Sockers desperately tried to put an end to the comeback, but Tayou’s fourth-period goal tied the game at five goals apiece. Brandon Escoto notched his first goal in the quarter, taking a pass from Cerda and sending it over the head of Reynoso, giving the Sockers the lead once more.
Said lead wouldn’t even last a full minute, as Miguel Vaca’s shot bounced off the foot of a San Diego defenseman and over the head of Pardo, tying the game up once more. After neither team could score in the final minutes, the match would be decided in golden-goal overtime.
Overtime saw Pardo make two saves that could’ve ended the Sockers night and finished a comeback from the Flash, as he stopped a top-of-the-box shot from going in as well as scooping up a shot attempt from Enrique Canez. After said scoop, a deliberate handball from the Flash gave the Sockers the ball again.
With possession, San Diego dug in deep and attacked the opposing goal with relentless fury. After a quick set up from Chiles, Cerda fired a shot, and it struck true, bouncing in to win the game as the team poured onto Cerda to celebrate their second overtime win.
On the goal, Cerda told the Sockers media that “the defense was letting up a bit, and I just took the shot”. However, victory came with a cost. Both Ortega and Juan Gonzales went down with injuries in the game, while Pardo was down for several minutes after taking a hit to the face in the game. On the bright side, San Diego has an entire week to rest up, as their next game is January 4th against the Turlock Express.