The final match of a two-game series, the Sockers found themselves down not only Landon Donavan, who didn’t make the trip north to rest, but also Kraig Chiles and Brian Farber, both of whom suffered hamstring injuries in previous games.
It didn’t help that the Tacoma Stars, still sore over their loss on Friday, played a physical game that hobbled Juan Gonzalez and took his brother Felipe Gonzalez out of the game. Even with three players down with injuries, San Diego put their division rivals in their place with a 9-5 victory.
San Diego got on the board quickly thanks to a Travis Pittman header, knocking the ball in for an easy goal. “Taylor (Bond) got it, looked to shoot, hit the board… I just kind of read it, charged it, and headed it into the back of the net” said Pittman after the game. The goal represented his fourth game in a row that he has scored.
Emotions were still running high after Tacoma’s loss in Friday’s game, and it spilled into tonight’s match, with Brandon Escoto getting a yellow card for dissent. Tacoma came into the game playing a physical, if not sometimes dirty, defense, sending Bond and Hiram Ruiz to the floor with shoves and slide tackles. Both Gonzalez brothers went down in the first quarter as well, a bad sign for a Sockers team that was already hobbled.
However, as Freddie Mercury once sang, the show must go on. Stars forward Joseph Cairel notched the first Tacoma goal on a power play after Cesar Cerda was sent to the penalty box with a blue card. A flurry of goals for the Sockers game in the final five minutes of the second quarter, with Luis “Pee Wee” Ortega, Escoto, and Juan Gonzalez blasting in goals past Sanaldo Carvhalo to make the score 4-1 at halftime.
San Diego put some distance between them and Tacoma after Joey Gjertsen’s third-quarter goal. Guerrero Pino extended his point streak to four with a goal off a set piece while Christian Gutierez, who was in the starting lineup as a forward, snuck a shot right under the diving hands of Carvhalo for his first goal of the night. Minutes later, with Carvhalo outside his box, Cerda fed a pass to an uncovered Escoto thanks to some broken Stars coverage, and the leading goalscorer for the Sockers had no issues knocking in his second goal of the game, making the score 7-2.
Tacoma would start to turn the tides with their own string of goals, as Nick Perera and Michael Ramos poked in shots that went past Pardo to end the third quarter. In the fourth quarter, the Stars got their fifth goal thanks to a power-play goal from Gjertsen. Tacamo leaned on their sixth attacker for the remainder of the game, but all it allowed was for the Sockers to drive the dagger into their hearts with goals from Ortega and Christian Segura icing the game at 9-5.
With injuries to multiple key players, the team depth truly shined today. For now though, the Sockers will get a bye week at the perfect time as their next game is against the Turlock Express at Pechanga Arena on March 1st.