Pechanga Arena- San Diego, California
For years, the San Diego Sockers and Soles de Sonora clashed in intense games of soccer where each team gave everything they had and then some. Sonora had even eliminated the Sockers in back-to-back Western Conference Finals.
The rivalry took a short hiatus when, in May of 2018, owner Rogelia Cota suspended operations for the 2018-2019 season. In a statement released by the MASL, the organization cited Cota’s “potential conflicts and other ventures” as the primary reason for the owner’s decision.
Cota finished his business just in time to reboot Sonora for the 2019-2020 season, and, just like that, the Sockers had their old rivals back in their conference.
The tension and physicality that defined these matches were also present on the pitch as well. Sonora was especially miffed when Eddie Velez celebrated a first-quarter goal with his fan-favorite “Mexican Hat Dance” alongside his young son at the center of the field.
“I kinda talked to him (his son) this morning about it,” Velez said on the celebration with his son. “I asked him if he wanted to come and celebrate with me if I score a goal… we talked a little bit about it.”
Cue two rapid-fire Sonora goals at the expense of Diego Arriaga, a free agent signing who was making his first start of the season to give Boris Pardo a reprieve after starting the first three games of the season.
The offensive surge from Sonora was tempered after San Diego retaliated with an outburst of their own in the second quarter. First came Hiram “Pollo” Ruiz, who, after hitting the crossbar twice in as many shots, found the back of the net with a searing hook shot to tie the game at two goals each.
After receiving a pass from Brandon Escoto, Luis “Pee Wee” Ortega scored the third San Diego goal to give the hometown club the lead. Escoto would score his own goal as well but took a hard slide tackle from a Sonora defender to get it.
The Sockers had taken the lead and had done it without team captain Kraig Chiles, who had left the game in the first quarter with an apparent injury. Chiles, who has five total points in four games played, was seen after the game walking on the field in good spirits, and his condition was officially listed as “week-to-week” by the team.
His teammates made up for the absence of their captain on the offense. Velez scored his second goal of the night in the third-quarter while Brian Farber hammered the final nail in Sonora’s coffin with a fourth-quarter goal that, for the second game in a row, went between the keeper’s legs. With the goal, Farber is now tied for the team lead in total points with five and has also scored a goal in each contest to begin the season.
Despite late resistance from Sonora, the Sockers defended their turf with a convincing 6-3 victory. Arriaga was impressive in Pardo’s stead as he snagged his first win in a Sockers’ jersey by making six saves against nine shot attempts.
“I feel motivated,” Arriaga said on the victory. “The whole team supported me, and I had the drive to win in these colors.”
Another encouraging aspect of today’s win is the cast of characters who brought home said victory and how head coach Phil Salvagio is utilizing the depth of his roster.
As mentioned before, Arriaga was making his first start of the season. After not playing against Ontario on Friday, Velez, alongside Taylor Bond and Raymundo Reza, were shuffled onto the gameday roster while Christian Gutierrez, Cesar Romero, and Luis Piffer got to rest their legs for the upcoming series.
No love was lost between these two teams, as eight of the nine blue cards were the result of a contact penalty. They certainly won’t forget the shoving match between Bond and Sonora’s Andrew Miller after the former received a shove to the back on his way to the ground.
All of that will be put on hold as the Sockers will be traveling north to face the Cal Express on Friday, December 20. San Diego is currently tied for second place in the Western Conference with Cal and will be looking to avenge a 7-6 loss they suffered on their home opener.