A game that featured Boris Pardo and Chris Toth, two of the statistically best goalies in the MASL, was bound to be a defensive showdown. For four quarters, the San Diego Sockers couldn’t figure out the mystery behind the Ontario’s Fury low-pressure defense and punishing counter offense.
It also didn’t help that a majority of the Sockers just came back from a late drive from Turlock, not arriving home until around three in the morning, and reporting to Pechanga Arena hours later.
Down 2-0 in the fourth quarter, the Sockers, who know all about losing leads in the final 15 minutes, turned the script on the Fury with two goals in the final seven minutes to force overtime. Almost two minutes into overtime, it was Brandon Escoto who got a friendly deflection off a Fury defender to score the golden goal to complete the comeback.
“It was a very deserved win,” said Escoto after the game, “We must continue to work hard as a team because we have to take the win”.
San Diego started off on the wrong foot on a pure accident. A shot by Juan Carlos Gonzales was batted away by Pardo, only to ricochet off the foot of Kraig Chiles and back into the Sockers net for a Fury goal. “It was an unfortunate rebound… that’s just how indoor is” said Pardo on the rebounded shot.
This would be the only offense for the entire game. San Diego fired shot after shot towards Toth, but the former Socker was more than capable of stopping everything the Sockers gave to him. If it wasn’t Toth making the saves, it was the Ontario defense that shut them down.
“They were sitting back…they were trying to do low pressure and play that quick release on the counter on us, and it caught us a few times” Pardo said of Ontario’s defensive play. A key member of the Fury’s defensive structure was Jeff Hughes, the former Socker, who was also returning to Pechanga Arena after spending much of last season with the Sockers 2 squad as a developmental captain. Hughes came close to a goal more than once while he and Toth kept the Ontario defense in line.
San Diego had two opportunities to score after two separate blue cards, one to the Ontario bench for too many men on the field and another on Andy Reyes for boarding, but both power plays fizzled after San Diego couldn’t crack the Toth code.
The defensive showdown lasted throughout the game until Andrae Campbell beat out Escoto and Raymundo Reza on the defense to score a fourth-quarter goal. The goal, combined with seal-tight Ontario defense, should’ve been a death blow to the Sockers.
All it did was stoke the flames for a comeback. Luis “Pee Wee” Ortega undid the goose egg in the seventh minute of play, as his shot caromed off the back of a Fury defender and into the net for the first Sockers goal of the night. A dramatic reset penalty gave San Diego a clear shot to tie the game and, with Chiles passing it off, Escoto found himself wide open to slam the ball past a diving Toth to tie the game.
San Diego held strong on the defense after Chiles was sent to the box on a blue card, and both teams would go to overtime. After some clutch saves by Pardo and perhaps some fortune by Lady Luck, Escoto raced down the field, only for his shot to be tipped by Jose Manuel Gonzales… past Toth and into the net for a game-ending goal to complete the epic comeback and send the crowd home happy.
For such a game to not only begin with a tipped-goal, but to also end on a tipped-in goal must be heart-wrenching for the Fury, but the Sockers will happily take the win. San Diego can finally take a chance to catch their breath and lick their wounds, as both Raymundo Contreras and Cesar Cerda left the game with injuries. San Diego and Ontario will square off again on January 11th at Pechanga Arena.